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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Meet Morris Talansky, Ehud K. Olmert's laundryman

The gag order on the Olmert bribery case has been lifted in the last few minutes and Israel Radio has mentioned the name of Morris Talansky for the first time. For those of you who have been living in caves for the past week, or who could not find the New York Post or New York Times web sites, Morris Talansky is the man referred to in Shula Zaken's (Olmert's bureau chief's) calendar as the 'Laundryman.' Talansky was interviewed very briefly today by Israel Radio [UPDATE - Israel Radio says the interview was Channel 2's. CiJ] without his name being mentioned.

Talansky - it is alleged - paid Olmert and Zaken hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of it in cash, over a period of years. Talansky has been here since Pesach and is willing to stay for another week or two. Talansky is not charged with any crime.

Under Israeli law, the fact that Olmert took money is proof enough of his having received a bribe. The prosecution is not required to prove what the bribe was for. Apparently, the police knew about this for a while, and were waiting for the opportunity to question him.

Olmert is now (at 11:20 PM) making a statement on the radio. He says he has known Talansky since 1993, and that Talansky helped him with election fund raising in 1993, 1998 (Jerusalem Mayoralty), 1999 and 2002 (Likud), and thereafter to pay deficits for elections. He claims that he did not get any of the money personally. The money went to Attorney Uri Messer (Olmert's former law partner). He claims that Messer managed the money in a legal manner. All the money went for election expenses and to cover deficits from previous campaigns. He says that he never received bribes and never took an agora (penny) into his pocket. He does not intend to leave his position but if the attorney general indicts him, he will resign. He apologizes for disturbing the public. He refused to take questions.

Do you believe him? I don't. He doesn't answer why he took money in cash. He doesn't answer why he took such large amounts in excess of what's legally allowed under the elections law. He doesn't answer why the 'contributions' were never reported. In fact, he ignored those questions completely.

He's a serial liar.


They're now playing the full interview with Talansky (fortunately in English) and I'm live blogging for a few minutes. Talansky says he's known Olmert for 20 years, that he wasn't 'sent here' by 'right wingers,' that the police came to his door at 6:00 AM on the Tuesday after Pesach (that's how they do these things here). Israel Radio says he has a feud with Sha'arei Zedek Hospital where he was once a fund raiser. Olmert claims that he had no campaign fund raising limits except during a period when elections have been called; otherwise he can raise unlimited amounts to cover debts from previous campaigns. Olmert's office is claiming that Talansky is a 'right winger' (even calling him an 'orange person' - pro-Gush Katif expellees) and that's why he was so cooperative with the police.

The big question is whether Ehud Barak will resign. Shelley Yechimovitch of Labor (Barak's party) has already called for Barak to leave the coalition and bring down the government. Labor, she says, cannot sit in a coalition led by someone as corrupt as Olmert. Zevulun Orlev of National Religious Party has called for new elections. Likud and Kadima are so far keeping quiet. National Union's Arye Eldad says the country cannot be led by people who accept bribes. The State has to defend itself and let Olmert defend himself.


Israel Radio's political correspondent Hanan Kristal says that the 1993 and 1998 municipal elections were not expensive. 1999 was expensive. 2002 was not.

By law, Olmert can remain in office until he's convicted and exhausted all appeals. For the time being, he doesn't believe Barak will bring down the government. Everyone's waiting to see what the Kadima ministers do. In the meantime, the attorney general is waiting for Talansky's testimony, which the court has not yet permitted to be done by deposition. And then there's Shas. For the time being, the game is still between Olmert and the State's Attorney.


Likud party chairman Gideon Sa'ar says this is nothing less than an earthquake and that Olmert cannot and is not worthy to lead the country, that he's subject to serial investigations, and that as soon as they know they have a majority, they will file a bill to disperse the Knesset (if you try and fail you cannot file it again for another six months).

I also just found a picture of Olmert with Morris Talansky which I'm putting into this post.

Olmert says he can't remember everything and says people should go ask Uri Messer (his former law partner) and Shula Zaken (his former bureau chief and before that is secretary) where the money went. Shula Zaken has thus far exercised her right to remain silent. She's protecting Olmert and may be damaging herself. They have even tried putting Zaken in a room with Talansky and she still remained silent. Talansky has not asked for anything - no state's witness status or anything else.


At 11:34 PM, Blogger ProfessorPelotard said...

He does not intend to leave his position but if the attorney general indicts him, he will resign.

That would be the best 60th anniversary present imaginable.

At 12:02 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its a comment on Israel's moral state that a Prime Minister will not do the right thing on his own but will wait for a court to compel him to do it. Whatever one might say of Israel's founding generation, for all their mistakes, they always put the good of the state first.

With Ehud Olmert, his first concern is not with the country's well-being but with his own personal well-being. He's not only an epigone in criminal behavior, he's the poster child for extreme narcissism. That kind of of a man is ashamed and affronted by nothing.

It is high time, for Israel's good, that Olmert was gone!

At 12:10 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

If Olmert is not guilty, he should be able to come clean with the country about his relationship with Morris Talansky. His evasions and silence are far more telling than the surrounding scandal. The only way to de-toxify Israel's political system is to force Olmert out. Its bad enough a Prime Minister bungled a war Israel could have won but its unacceptable to have in office a Prime Minister who uses it for his own personal self interest.

All of Israel wants to know: when did Olmert know when he did it and for how long he did it? This looks like its just the tip of a very vast iceberg.

A moral iceberg. And I wrote a couple of posts ago Olmert is like a poisoned chalice. The only question now if whether people in the government want to appear damaged by remaining near him.

At 7:14 AM, Blogger Findalis said...

Olmert was unfit to lead Israel after the debacle of 2006. He should have stepped down then. Better men than him have stepped down after scandals that were a lot less than those that plague him.

I'm hoping for new elections and a much better government for Israel.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Olmert was unfit to lead before the debacle of 2006. We just didn't have enough proof to convince some people until the summer of 2006 happened.

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