Finally, finally are we seeing an accumulation of evidence against Olmert that will finish his career?
On Friday, the police and State Prosecution announced yet new evidence against him. He seems to be involved in a bottomless pit of alleged misdeeds, illegal and immoral. It reminds me of a magic act in which the magician finds one more scarf up his sleeve, and then another from his hat, and then another inside his jacket, endlessly.
But in Olmert’s case the nation is not entertained. It’s a question of awaiting specific evidence that is so solid, so definitive, that even he, as slippery as he is, can find no way out of it. Just possibly we’ve reached that point.
The announcement Friday involved allegations that Olmert “double-dipped” and even “triple-dipped.” It is believed that he sought and received donations from multiple agencies for the same trips abroad.
From 1998 to 2005, during the period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and minister of trade, it is alleged that he booked flights with a travel agency called Rishon, which then, at his instructions, sent invoices for each trip in question to several non-profit agencies — including Yad Vashem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the Soldiers Welfare Association — each of which was under the impression it was covering the entire cost of that trip.
Allegedly, the extra money that accumulated — some $100,000 — was put into a special account for Olmert managed by Rishon, which he used for private travel.
What is said to be different here from other cases — even the Talansky case — is that it does not depend upon someone’s testimony, but on hard evidence of invoices, bank accounts, etc.
Former Israel Police chief investigator Cmdr. (ret.) Moshe Mizrahi gave The Jerusalem Post a statement on the matter yesterday:
“When you look at the statement released by state prosecutors and the police, you can see unusually harsh wording, which is uncharacteristic. There can be no explanation for releasing such a bold and harshly worded statement other than the fact that police are in possession of concrete evidence…
“The allegations are so ugly and base – it is inconceivable that they were released simply to harm the prime minister. The evidence must exist…Here, there is firm documentation of money transferred, of requests to organizations for money, and proof of the transfer of funds to a private account for Olmert by the travel agency.
“Clearly, Olmert will not be able to say , as he has done in response to the Talansky investigation, that he was unaware of what was happening, or that he trusted others to handle the funds for him…What transpired here was a consequence of orders from [Olmert].
“If you look at your account and suddenly see tens of thousands of dollars in it…how could you not be aware of that?”
It goes without saying that Olmert’s lawyers, family and close associates are tripping all over themselves explaining this. My favorites:
One lawyer explained that it was common practic e to invoice more than one organization for a trip as it was impossible to know if any specific organization would come through. When asked, then, when money came through from more than one place why some of it wasn’t returned, he replied that “this will have to be looked into.” Indeed.
Then there is the highly indignant public protest by Olmert’s children, whose statement declared: “We want to unequivocally clarify that our father explicitly told us that the plane tickets given to us were a gift from him paid for out of his own pocket.”
Well, indeed he may have told them just that , but this proves less than nothing, as surely they know.
The police, saying the two cases are not really related , are declining to give Olmert’s lawyers all of the evidence they have acquired until after the cross-examination of Talansky later this week.
There continues to be talk of a possible August indictment. We’ll see…
According to today’s Sunday Times (London), a “senior Pentagon official” has given Israel an “amber light” with regard to attacking Iran. This means the US will give Israel the green light to proceed if diplomatic efforts fail and an Israeli plan is in place. In the meantime, Israel is to proceed with preparations, but not expect any military backup from the US if the time comes for attack — or even expect that the US would permit Israeli planes to utilize American bases in Iraq.
I am not certain how much to make of this , as it has not been confirmed by sources beyond this one official. According to him, the US decision not to attack has already been made; but that’s not necessarily what I’m picking up in other quarters.
As to the US not providing any backup militarily , I wonder how this can be when this very same official is cited as saying, “…the president is really preoccupied with the nuclear threat against Israel and I know he doesn’t believe that anything but force will deter Iran.”
Nor does this dovetail with the statement of Rice the other day that the US has strengthened it “security presence” in the Gulf. “We will defend American interests and the interests of our allies…”
It must be noted that Israel has the capacity only to set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions by five years; it would require US involvement to truly destroy Iran’s nuclear ability. No one deludes himself that any of this would be easy, or that it would be free of Iranian backlash of one sort and another. But the alternative, from the Israeli perspective, certainly, is unthinkable.
One complication here is the up-coming US election and concern that if Obama wins there would be no US support for a military operation — thus leading those who are proponents of such an operation to feel that there is a limited window within which to operate.
Salam Fayyad, PA prime minister , has been seen as the most moderate of all within the PA upper echelon, and has been a favorite within Western governments. But right now Fayyad is being made very uncomfortable by Israeli actions against Hamas institutions in Judea and Samaria, as they make it seem as if he’s siding with Israel against Hamas — not a popular position on the street. And so, he has spoken out against these operations, accusing Israel of sabotaging PA efforts.
Yesterday he called upon Hamas to form a unity government , saying, “The response to the Israeli measures should be the immediate reunification of the two parts of the homeland. We must end the division and restore unity immediately.”
Fayyad, however, is no darling of Hamas. When it took over Gaza last year, PA President Mahmoud Abbas disbanded the government and replaced Hamas-affiliated prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, with Fayyad, in what he called a transitional or emergency government. Hamas claims this action was unconstitutional and holds Fayyad responsible for being willing to participate. Because of his participation, Hamas is calling him “the most dangerous man for the Palestinian cause.”
Hamas is now holding Fayyad responsible for the closure of 30 institutions in Nablus and Ramallah. His call for unity will fall on deaf ears within Hamas circles.