Olmert Resigns

Jul 30, 2008 Published under Israel, Mideast Negotiations

Prime Minister Olmert has announced that he will resign after Kadima (his party) chooses a new leader in the primary elections that were negotiated under pressure with his rivals amidst the turmoil generated from investigations into his dealings.  The investigations center around a disgruntled donor who supported Olmert back when he was Mayor of Jerusalem, well prior to Olmert’s turn to support peace negotiations with Syria and Palestine. I’ve heard from smart insiders that the prime "witness"/corrupt donor – Talansky – is a hawkish marionette of Sheldon Adelson, who may be prodding this investigation in an effort to derail negotiations.  Upon hearing Olmert’s announcement, right-wing Knesset members immediately questioned Olmert’s legitimacy in his continued determination to pursue peace negotiations with Syria and the Palestinian Authority.

Olmert declares he’s stepping down under weight of corruption probes


July 30, 2008

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, embroiled in high-profile corruption investigations, announced Wednesday that he will resign after his party chooses a new leader in September elections.

The televised announcement injected new uncertainty into Israeli politics and Mideast peace efforts, coming just as Olmert has been intensifying negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as well as Syria.

It also raises questions about the political legacies of both President Bush and Olmert, who have hoped to burnish their reputations by achieving breakthroughs in Mideast peace talks before leaving office.

Olmert, speaking live Wednesday on Israeli TV, passionately reiterated his commitment to peace but acknowledged that the corruption investigations made it impossible for him to continue in office. "I was forced to defend myself against relentless attacks from self-appointed ‘fighters for justice’ who sought to depose me from my position, when the ends sanctified all the means," he said.

Statesmanlike exit

Many commentators described his speech as statesmanlike, allowing him to leave office with a modicum of dignity and the air of a man who — belatedly in the eyes of his many critics — had finally done the right thing.

Previously, Olmert had pledged to resign only if charged. On Wednesday, he vowed that he would continue to fight the legal battle and prove his "innocence and clean hands."

Olmert is suspected of crimes including bribery, fraud and breach of trust, but he has not been charged with anything so far. In one case, Olmert is suspected of having received tens of thousands of dollars in cash from Morris Talansky, a New York fundraiser, over 13 years.

In the latest case, known as "Olmert Tours," he is suspected of having billed multiple state and charitable agencies for the same flights when he was mayor of Jerusalem and a government minister, using the extra money for private family trips.

At once composed and defiant, Olmert devoted the first part of his speech to extolling his government’s achievements on issues like security and poverty. But his most emotional statements were about peace.

"I continue to believe wholeheartedly that reaching peace, ending terrorism, strengthening security and establishing a different relationship with our neighbors are the most vital goals for the future of the state of Israel," he said, adding that U.S. support and the leadership of President Bush had "greatly contributed" to the effort.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that Olmert and Bush spoke just before the announcement. "He wishes him well and will continue to work closely with him while he remains prime minister," Johndroe said.

The front-runner to replace Olmert as Kadima Party leader is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was at the State Department in Washington when Olmert made his announcement, about to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia. Rice called the announcement "an internal Israeli matter."

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