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Saturday, May 31, 2008

'He's a first class politician, and he flies first class'

Israelis have been shocked this week to find out that their Prime Minister lives like an Arab Sheikh, at least when he's traveling. The Saudi royal family doesn't live any better than Olmert.
There was a form in Ehud Olmert's bureau, which was sent out to the various organizations that financed his trips abroad and stipulated the conditions of his lodgings. The document, which was made available to Haaretz, states that the organization inviting Olmert must underwrite a suite in a 'first class' hotel, preferably one in which cigar smoking is permitted. The hotel has to be equipped with a gym.

Olmert's flights, too, always had to be first class. Indeed a flight that he took in February 2005, while serving as industry and trade minister, to a dinner in Palm Beach, Florida, to participate in an event organized by the March of the Living organization with his friend Avraham Hirchson, cost about $20,000. In September 2004, he flew to New York for two days at the expense of the mogul Edmundo Safdie, to attend a reception. The cost of the first-class ticket: $7,600.

On October 2, 2005, while serving as vice prime minister and finance minister, Olmert flew to Washington for a short trip with his wife, Aliza, who was exhibiting a collection of her art in the American capital under the title 'Tikkun' (which in Hebrew means 'repairing' or 'restoring'). Morris Talansky paid about $4,700 for the couple's three-night stay in a hotel.
Some details from Morris Talansky's deposition came out this week. Among them is the following gem, which will be greatly appreciated by many of my readers who keep Kosher:
One meeting appearing on the itineraries of Olmert's trips to New York, which were found by the police, is a get-together with Talansky in a fancy restaurant called Thalassa, in Tribeca on November 2, 2004, at 2:45 P.M. The restaurant specializes in lobster and organic food and has a 5,000-bottle wine cellar. The timetable shows that the Olmert-Talansky meeting lasted only 15 minutes: At 3 P.M., Olmert was to meet his son Shaul and another person for lunch in the same restaurant.

Talansky stated in court this week that 15 minutes was the time Olmert usually allotted him. But when interrogators asked him about the restaurant meeting, he denied it altogether. "Thalassa? How do you spell it?" he asked, adding that he does not frequent nonkosher restaurants. Olmert also denied the meeting took place.
But the most disturbing thing I saw this weekend was the news that the prosecutors have known about Talansky for two years and refused to investigate.
The Talansky affair emerged from a police investigation that dealt with the give-and-take relations between Olmert and attorney Uri Messer. In August 2006, Haaretz Magazine published a report that exposed for the first time Olmert's actions as industry and trade minister on behalf of Messer's clients. It was not until October 2007, more than a year later, after much vacillation and delay, that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered an investigation into the suspicions raised by the Haaretz article and by the harsh report issued by the State Comptroller's Office on the same subject. The police seemed to be in no rush to thoroughly investigate the sensitive information it possessed from the beginning about the Olmert-Talansky ties.

In March 2008, the Fraud Investigations Unit was about to wrap up the Olmert-Messer affair and send the file to the State Prosecutor's Office for a final decision. Already then the police team had evidence that Olmert actively assisted Messer's clients and also promoted a grant of tens of millions of shekels to one of the companies Messer represented. Additional evidence showed that for years Messer supplied Olmert with political and legal services free of charge or for low fees.

One of the police officers who saw memos about the money transfers Zaken recorded in her computer, was certain that those involved would have explanations for them. "They will tell us that it's from the sale of a private property," he said. It is clear today that if Mazuz had not waited so long before deciding to launch an investigation into the suspicions against Olmert, the Talansky affair would have come to light already a year ago.
Could there have been politics involved in slowing down the investigation into Olmert's relationship with Talansky? Could politics not have been involved?

There were also some nice tidbits about Olmert's former bureau chief Shula Zaken. While Zaken - who apparently has the loyalty of a puppy dog to Olmert - has invoked her right to remain silent to date, someone ought to remind the thief that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Zaken is complaining that the 'boss' isn't devoting enough time to her.

Read the whole thing.


At 10:52 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Left in Israel controls the police, the prosecution and the courts. With control over the levers of power, it can make or break politicians. In the long run of things, there are more powerful people in Israel than the Prime Minister. At least he's elected by the voters and is accountable to them. The people who are deciding his fate now aren't.

At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing at all about Olmert that I like.

However, he is the leader of the country and, although he does not deserve it, he should travel first class.

Hopefully it wont be for too much longer.


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