Court ruling clears way for Olmert comeback
An ISRAELI court has imposed only a light sentence on former prime minister Ehud Olmert in a corruption case that helped force him from office four years ago, raising the prospect of a comeback that could galvanise political forces favouring an accommodation with the Palestinians and pose a challenge to the dominance of hawkish PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Mr Olmert, who was given a one-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay a £12,500 fine for breaching public trust by channelling government contracts to a confidant’s associates, still faces a major hurdle in the form of another corruption trial over a Jerusalem apartment complex. Moreover, state prosecutors said they were considering appealing yesterday’s decision to Israel’s High Court.
Judges in yesterday’s case sharply reprimanded him for “a very clear conflict of interest and breach of trust”.
But they added that they also took into account Mr Olmert had been forced to step down from his post and that he had spent 30 years in public work.
Amnon Dankner, former editor-in-chief of Maariv newspaper, who is close to Mr Olmert, said: “One can see from this punishment that the court has opened the door for [him] to return to public life if that is what he desires.”
In July, Mr Olmert said he had no intention of returning to politics, but leaders of his Kadima party voiced hope yesterday that this was not the last word.
As prime minister, Mr Olmert launched devastating military operations against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and against Hamas in Gaza in 2008. But he also negotiated intensively with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas over the thorny final status issues in dispute, such as Jerusalem, borders and refugees. He claims the two were within reach of a historic agreement when he was forced to step down. Under Mr Netanyahu, the peace process has been moribund for more than three years.
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