A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
November 26, 2008- Olmert Indicted, Ultra Orthodox Shut Out of Jerusalem Municipal Government
After years of investigations, it has finally happened: the State Prosecutor has decided to indict Israeli Prime Minster Olmert. Of the many cases under investigation, the decision was made to indict in reference to the affair known as "Rishon Tours". This is the case where Olmert is being charged with double billing various charities for his travel abroad. The way it worked is that when he was Mayor of Jerusalem, Olmert would have one charity pay for his first class travel to the US. He would then tell a second charity that he was available to travel and speak on their behalf. The charity would then send payment for the second airfare to Olmert's travel agency - Rishon Tours. The second and sometimes third payment would then by used to pay for travel for Olmert's family members.
This is the first time that a sitting Israeli Prime Minister has been indicted. The charges range from corruption to income tax evasion. The announcement of the indictment came as a surprise. Olmert responded angrily and stated that this is what he could have expected from the State Prosecutor, which is against him. Olmert's aid have stated that he would not step down. This is a unique constitutional crisis since Olmert has already resigned. The State Legal Advisor, Mazuz, could force Olmert to step down at this point and observers believe that this will happen. If he was to do this, Kadima Chairperson and Minister of Foreign Relations Tzpi Livni would become the acting Prime Minster. Observers believe that this would help her in her election campaign.
Following Nir Barkat's victory in the Jerusalem mayoral campaign, for the first time in almost 40 years, not a single ultra-Orthodox party will be represented on the Jerusalem municipal coalition. There are other religious parties represented in the coalition, such as the National Religious Party. In addition to being mayor, Barkat said he would also chair the city's education portfolio. This could indeed be a turning point for Israel's capital. Only time will tell.