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Monday, May 05, 2008

'Peace process' likely suspended until Olmert indictment resolved

With Prime Minister Ehud Korruption Olmert complaining of 'mean and vicious rumors' surrounding the latest police investigation into the bribes he (allegedly) has taken, government sources said that the 'peace process' is likely to be frozen until Olmert's situation is 'resolved.'
"Their head is not into it right now," one official said of Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who would take over from Olmert if he had to temporarily step down. "They have no patience for this right now."

The official said that what Israel and the Palestinian Authority had achieved in their discussions up until now was where things would likely remain until the political uncertainty in Jerusalem was lifted.
Even the 'Palestinians' seem to be looking for a way to climb down from the tree that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has chased everyone up to conclude an agreement by the end of this year.
An aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas was also skeptical about achieving a breakthrough in the wake of the new scandal, details of which are covered by a court-ordered gag order.

"Olmert is facing many problems at home," he said. "We doubt if he would be able to focus on the peace talks while he's being interrogated by the police. Obviously, he has been weakened by the latest affair."
The gag order may soon be lifted, which could only make matters worse for Olmert.
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and State Attorney Moshe Lador published a statement Sunday evening in which they addressed the matter of the gag order which was issued Friday and which is preventing the public from learning what Olmert is suspected of and what his version is regarding the suspicions.

Mazuz and Lador, who said they were also speaking for Maj.-Gen. Yochanan Danino, who heads the Police Investigations and Intelligence Department, explained that they intended to allow the public to be supplied with information regarding case without impeding the investigation.


The statement read: "We are well aware of the public interest and need for receiving information regarding the investigation being conducted against the Prime Minister these days. Indeed, a state of things in which a serving Prime Minister is interrogated under warning, without the public being informed even in general terms of the suspicions and suspects involved, creates difficulties in the public and legal spheres. This much is clear. Still, it is also important to make clear that besides the public's right to know, there is also a vital public interest in not thwarting the investigation and preventing the possibility of discovering the truth."

Mazuz and Lador promised that they would "continue to closely follow developments with the aim of making it possible to give the public additional information, as long as this can be done without impeding the investigation."
This morning, Israel Radio reported that Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu (who left the government himself in January) is trying to get a majority of the Knesset to agree on a September election date. Given that it is now May, that it takes three months to hold elections, and that those in power will not agree to elections in August when much of the country is abroad, September looks like the earliest possible date.

For those of you who think this is the end of Olmert's government, please don't be overconfident. First, we have thought several times over the last two years that the end was nigh and unfortunately, it was not. Second, even if the Knesset disbands and elections are called, Olmert will remain in power as a caretaker unless he is forced to remove himself due to the criminal indictments (in which case Livni would take over, which might even be worse). During that interim period Olmert and Livni may continue to negotiate our future away. Ehud Barak tried doing that eight years ago at Taba while he was facing a special election. We're still suffering the consequences.

The irony in all this is that Olmert - like Ariel Sharon before him - undertook the entire 'peace process' to save himself from indictment. The whole thing is a sham designed to keep him out of jail. And hopefully, it won't succeed.


From Monday's New York Times, here's a hint of what the current scandal (not counting the one that just broke this morning - see the post above this one) is about underneath the gag order.
The nature of the accusation against Mr. Olmert is under a strict court-imposed gag order, so Israeli commentators, some of whom have received leaks of key details, have been talking around it. “The issue under investigation is serious, of that there can be no doubt,” wrote Nahum Barnea, a columnist for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot. “If it turns out that the allegations against Olmert are well founded, he will have to resign his post if not more than that.”

Mr. Barnea hinted that the core of the issue seemed to be bribery. [I heard it was bribery coming from the United States. CiJ] “Sometimes affairs of this sort end with nothing,” he wrote. “Other times they become bogged down in an argument over interpretation: an act that one jurist interprets as bribe-taking is interpreted by another as entirely legitimate and by a third as a technical mishap.”

Because Mr. Olmert is under investigation in several other cases, and because he has many political enemies, some in the Israeli news media have urged caution, arguing that the inquiry could be just another attempt to bring him down.

But others argued that the sheer quantity of the investigations was one reason he would not survive.

Channel 2 News said Sunday night that Mr. Olmert’s long-time close aide, Shula Zaken, had been questioned under caution for the third time and had maintained her right to remain silent all three times. It also quoted “senior sources” as saying that the case was moving quickly toward an indictment. [Zaken has been under house arrest since last Tuesday. She was Olmert's bureau chief for thirty years until she was forced to resign because of the Tax Authority scandal. CiJ]
By the way, Israel Radio reported yesterday that Olmert has canceled all of the traditional Independence Day interviews with the media, which were to have taken place today.


At 11:22 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Ehud Olmert won't resign unless he has to. Ehud Barak's biggest mistake may be being tainted with association with Olmert, when he could have run as Mr. Clean in elections this spring. Olmert is like a poisoned chalice. No one he touches comes out looking good.

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