A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
July 10, 2012- Olmert Not Guilty On Most Charges, Libyans Vote For Liberals Over Islamist Party.
The Since a little after 9 AM this morning the news in Israel has been dominated by the story of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert being found not guilty of all but one charge, in many faceted corruption trial. The verdict was a real surprise to most observers. The trial was, in fact, three trials in one. The first case, called "Rishon Tours" dealt with the fact that Jewish charities were often double billed for Olmert's flights and the balances were later used by his family for private travel. The second segment of the trail was over the Talansky case, about money Olmert received from a resident from "The Five Towns", named Talansky. The third case revolved around how Olmert ran his office when he was Minister of Trade.
Olmert was acquitted in the first and second cases, due to reasonable doubt. The doubt was not over the facts in either of these two cases, but whether or not Olmert was aware of the illegal acts, and whether or not there was criminal intent behind the actions. In the third case, Olmert was found guilty of one of the lesser charges: Breach of public trust. Thus, Olmert becomes the first Israeli Prime Minister to be found criminally guilty. The court's decision today has brought all types of reactions in Israel. Most of the negative reactions have been aimed at the State Prosecutor's office, for pursuing the cases against Olmert in the first place.
It's important to remember the sequence of events: The investigation began while Olmert was serving as Prime Minister, with over two years left to his term. The issue came to the fore when the prosecution requested the key witness Moshe Talansky gives testimony early, before an indictment had even taken place, since they feared he would not remain around in Israel. The courts honored the prosecutor's request and Talansky gave testimony that he had indeed given Olmert a significant amount of cash. The testimony caused a political storm. After Ehud Barak gave Ehud Olmert an ultimatum, Olmert was forced to resign. Soon there were new elections and a Likud government came to power.
Talansky’s motivation for testifying remain unclear to this day. Though the results of his testimony are clear. Olmert was out of office and Netanyahu become Prime Minister. Yet, it is hard to see how, in light of the material the prosecutors received that they could have chosen not go ahead. This recent vindication is the fourth or fifth time that Olmert has escaped conviction on various allegations of corruption. One has to wonder, where there is smoke there is usually...
Olmert is still immersed in one last case- that of the Holy Land bribery trial. There, he is charged with accepting bribes in return for changing the zoning requirements for the humongous chain of buildings that went up on the site of the former Holy Land hotel. Finally, one piece of unadulterated good news. In the Libyan elections, the Liberal candidate who ran for office decisively defeated the Islamist candidate. Thus, showing there may still be a chance for a true liberal democracy in the Arab world. It’s also a clear foreign policy victory for the Obama Administration. If you combine this victory with the narrowness of the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate in Egypt, maybe the Muslim world is not on a one-way trip to Islamic rule.