Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert left prison early yesterday, days after a parole board granted him early release from his 27-month corruption sentence.
Prison service spokesman Assaf Librati said Olmert, 71, was whisked away by security and driven home after serving 16 months. Olmert appeared gaunt and pale as he left the jail.
Mr Librati said the terms of Olmert’s early release stipulate that for the next few months he must do volunteer work, appear before police twice a month and not give interviews to the media or leave the country.
Olmert will reportedly volunteer at a food bank and for a group that provides medical aid to needy families.
However, President Reuven Rivlin could relieve him of the parole restric- tions.
A friend of Olmert, Eti Livni, told Army Radio: “We are very happy, a great burden has been lifted and a great sorrow and pain has ended.”
Olmert was convicted in 2014 in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a real-estate project in Jerusalem and obstructing justice.
The charges covered a period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister before he became premier in 2006.
His departure from office in 2009 ended the last major Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and ushered in the era of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Olmert was a long-time fixture in Israel’s hawkish right wing when he began taking a dramatically more concili- atory line towards the Palestinians more than a decade ago.
He played a leading role in Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and became prime minister in January 2006 after then-PM Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke.
He resigned amid a corruption scandal that clouded his administration.
A gifted orator, Olmert broke a series of taboos while in office – warning that Israel could become like apartheid South Africa if it continued its occupation of the Palestinians and expressing readiness to relinquish parts of Jerusalem under a peace deal.
Olmert has said he made unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians, including a near-total withdrawal from the West Bank and an offer to place Jerusalem’s Old City under international control, and was close to reaching an agreement at the time of his resignation.
Justice minister Ayelet Shaked welcomed Olmert’s release, saying he deserved to have his sentence reduced and that “all in all his behaviour in prison was very good”.