Former Israeli PM Olmert cleared of charges that drove him from office

July 10, 2012

(Olmert headlines offer short-term hype | The Times of Israel) Interestingly, only two papers give front-page prominence to the story that was all the talk yesterday, namely the release of a legal report announcing that Israel is not the occupying force everybody believes it to be. One might expect that a paper penned by a former Supreme Court justice and commissioned by the prime minister, which recommends legalizing most West Bank outposts and strikes at the heart of Israel’s national character, would make more noise. But as it happens only Haaretz and Israel Hayom thought it was Page 1-worthy.
Haaretz, as might be expected of a stalwart left-wing publication, comes out against the report’s findings with a front-page editorial calling for its shredding. Israel Hayom meanwhile highlights the report’s warm embrace by the right and its calls for the government to adopt the findings and shift policies accordingly.

I’m glad Olmert was cleared and I’m glad Olmert was wronged

(Washington Post) GALI TIBBON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES – Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks to the press at the District Court in Jerusalem on Tuesday after hearing the verdict in his trial where he was acquitted on two key corruption charges while finding him guilty on a lesser charge.

JERUSALEM – An Israeli court on Tuesday cleared former prime minister Ehud Olmert of two corruption charges–including a bribery accusation that led to his resignation in 2008, as he was trying to negotiate peace with the Palestinians–but convicted him of a lesser charge of fraud and breach of trust.
While some commentators hailed the mixed verdict as proof of an independent justice system, the decision was widely viewed as an embarrassing blow to Israeli prosecutors, and it raised questions about whether an overly-aggressive investigation had wrongly driven Olmert from office.
Olmert was convicted of fraud and breach of trust in connection with a case dating to 2006, when he was a government minister. But he was acquitted of more serious charges that he had pocketed envelopes stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a wealthy New Yorker, Morris Talansky, and that he double-billed state agencies and charities for overseas flights while he was a minister and mayor of Jerusalem.
“There was no corruption. There was no taking of money, there was no use of money, there were no cash envelopes,” Olmert said after the ruling on Tuesday.
Olmert was thrust to power in 2006 after his then-boss, former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, suffered a stroke. Olmert led Israel through an inconclusive but damaging war with the Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah that summer and re-started long-dormant negotiations with the Palestinians in 2007.
At the time, those talks appeared to have little traction, and they were cut short by an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip in late 2008 and early 2009.
Elections after Olmert’s resignation ushered in the current administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his conservative Likud party. Peace talks have been essentially moribund since.
Yoel Hasson, a lawmaker from Olmert’s centrist Kadima party, told the Israeli news Web site on Tuesday that he hoped Olmert would return to politics. The corruption accusations, he said, had “wronged one of the best prime ministers Israel has ever had…the Israeli public finally understands that a prime minister was impeached for nothing.”
After Olmert’s resignation, both he and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said they were close to a pact in 2008. Former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has written that Olmert secretly presented a map for a Palestinian state that included international control of holy sites in Jerusalem, but Abbas did not agree to it.

Caroline Glick..
11 July ’12..
(Love of the Land: Glick – Thoughts on Olmert’s partial acquittal)I have not had the opportunity to read the court decision on Olmert. And so my thoughts on his acquittal have little to do with the merits of the prosecution in the three cases adjudicated by the Jerusalem District Court.
I have a problem with corruption investigations against politicians generally and against Ehud Olmert specifically. In general, I find these sorts of investigations against politicians inherently biased. I take my cue from the Federalist Papers, and there I believe it was James Madison who explained that the presumption has to be that politicians are all corrupt. Their power puts them in contact with powerful and wealthy men who use their proximity to politicians to advance their interests. The larger government is – that is, the larger government’s influence over the economic life of a society, the greater the likelihood of corruption. The more power a politician exerts over the economy, the larger his propensity to take bribes from people interested in making a profit.
This is the way of the world. And in our world, where governments control enormous welfare states and therefore exert massive influence over the economic life of a country, the assumption ought to be that all politicians are corrupt.
This assumption then leads to the clear conclusion that every corruption investigation and prosecution of politicians is inherently discriminatory. If all politicians are on the take to greater or lesser degrees, then the decision regarding who to investigate is essentially a decision about who to single out. And therefore, all corruption investigations of politicians are by their nature unjust. The investigations are themselves corrupt.
These understandings led Madison and his colleagues to the conclusion that all government should be limited as much as possible. It also led them to call for a system of checks and balances so that all arms of government checked one another’s power.
In Israel, (and increasingly in the US as we see with the Obamacare ruling), the third branch of government – the judiciary – has become increasingly unhinged from this system. In Israel, the judiciary has effectively co-opted the state prosecution. Under the de facto control of the judiciary, the prosecution has leveraged itself into a position where, like the judiciary, it appoints and promotes its own without answering to elected officials. This situation has weakened severely Israel’s democratic system, attenuating the ability of the public to control its government or trust its institutions.
It is due to these twin issues – the assumption that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely and therefore all people with power can be assumed to be corrupt; and the imperial nature of Israel’s legal system – that I view all corruption scandals in Israel with great suspicion. We have consistently seen the tendency of the legal fraternity to selectively prosecute corruption allegations in order to advance the fortunes of the Left against the Right.
And this brings me to my special difficulty with the legal prosecution of Olmert.
Objectively speaking, Olmert was the worst prime minister that Israel has ever had. And that is saying a lot. He had stiff competition from Ehud Barak, but he managed to outdo him in incompetence and general failure to meet the challenge of the office he aspired to in his unmitigated shamelessness and hubris.
Olmert lost the war with Hezbollah in 2006. He lost Israel’s campaign against Hamas in 2008-2009. He failed to block Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. He weakened Israel’s international position and its alliance with the US. And so on and so forth.
The public never forgave him for his failed leadership in the 2006 war. And rightly so. There can be no forgivIng or forgetting his decision to send forces to their deaths in battle AFTER he had already accepted the ceasefire ensuring that none of their action would make any difference. I believe that 34 IDF soldiers died in the last 36 hours of the war that took place AFTER Olmert had agreed to the ceasefire.
And this brings us to the issue of his alleged corruption.
The Israeli media specifically, and the left generally holds the lion’s share of responsibility for the outbreak of the 2006 war due to its massive propaganda campaign to coerce successive governments into withdrawing from southern Lebanon in 2000. Had Israel not run away in May 2000, Hezbollah would not have been free to attack Israel in 2006. It’s that simple.
In 2006, the media were unwilling to acknowledge the cause for the war – them. So right after it was over, they sought to bury it and forget all about it. But the public would not put it behind them. The reservists called up to serve in the war and risk their lives for a war their government decided to lose formed a protest movement and marched on Jerusalem demanding Olmert’s resignation.
The establishment tried to deflect their anger first by seeking to discredit them. Led by Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker, the media sought to castigate the reservists by accusing them of being closet right wingers whose only goal was to avenge the expulsions from Gaza.
When that didn’t work, they tried to punt by forming the Winograd Commission to investigate the war. The mandate of the committee was to begin its investigation with what happened AFTER the unilateral withdrawal of May 2000. By so determining the mandate of the commission, the establishment ensured that no attention would be paid to the cause of the war – Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon.
But even the Winograd Commission’s findings couldn’t assuage the public’s hatred for Olmert. So the media decided to sacrifice him to the wolves of the state prosecution on corruption charges. They decided that Olmert had to be sacrificed to protect their ideology. And so he was. It is a scandal of historic proportions that Olmert was ousted for anything other than his unforgivably failed leadership of the country in war. His alleged corruption was at best a tertiary concern.
There is now some talk of Olmert making a political comeback. All I can say to that is that if the Israeli public is stupid enough to allow him back in power, then we deserve what we get. But I don’t believe this talk.
The one possible silver lining in all of this is that Olmert’s partial acquittal has put the prosecution in the dock. If its failure to convict Olmert finally empowers the Knesset to reign in our out of control prosecutors, then perhaps it can be said that there was a divine plan to all of this. But since I am in no position to understand God’s design, all I can say is that there are no heroes in this story. The bad guys won, and the bad guys lost.


Rice reveals concessions in 2008 peace talks

November 1, 2011

New memoir by former secretary of state reveals details on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; was “impressed” by Olmert’s desire for a deal.

(REBECCA ANNA STOIL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT) WASHINGTON – A new memoir by former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice will be released Tuesday, but the lengthy book has already raised uproars in Israel and abroad before it hits the shelves. Rice’s description of the failure of the 2008 peace talks demonstrated key silences regarding American understanding of the Palestinian position, as detailed in papers leaked to the press earlier this year.

Rice said that in spring of 2008 both she and then-president George W. Bush had “both been impressed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s desire to get a deal.”
The former secretary of state recounted an evening in Jerusalem in May when she was asked to dine alone with Olmert. The then-prime minister presented her with an outline for a peace plan.
“I know what [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas] needs. He needs something on refugees and on Jerusalem. I’ll give him enough land, maybe something like 94 percent with swaps. I have an idea about Jerusalem. There will be two capitals, one for us in west Jerusalem and one for the Palestinians in east Jerusalem.
The mayor of the joint-city council will be selected by population percentage. That means an Israeli mayor, so the deputy should be a Palestinian. We will continue to provide security for the Holy sites because we can assure access to them,” Olmert told her.
“I’ll accept some Palestinians into Israel, maybe five thousand.
I don’t want it to be called ‘family reunification’ because they have too many cousins; we won’t be able to control it. I’ve been thinking about how to administer the Old City. There should be a committee of people – not officials but wise people – from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians, the United States and Israel. They will oversee the city but not in a political role,” he continued.
Rice recalled her incredulity: “Am I really hearing this? I wondered. Is the Israeli prime minister saying that he’ll divide Jerusalem and put an international body in charge of the Holy sites? Concentrate. Write this down. No, don’t write it down. What if it leaks? It can’t leak; it’s just the two of us.”
Rice said that she visited Abbas in Ramallah the next day. “I sketched out the details of Olmert’s proposal and told him how the prime minister wanted to proceed. Abbas started negotiating immediately. “I can’t tell four million Palestinians that only 5,000 of them can go home,” he said.”
While Rice is silent on the ensuing breakdown of talks – missing pieces are actually supplied by the Palestine Papers – documents memorializing 10 years of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that were stolen from Saeb Erekat’s office and posted on al-Jazeera’s website last January.
Although Palestinian negotiators spoke publicly about compromise on refugees, privately they spoke of the “right of return” as a matter of individual choice that would have to be extended to each of over seven million people and with Palestinians retaining the open-ended right to try to negotiate additional “returns” beyond any number initially agreed upon in a peace treaty.
Abbas was simply unprepared to accept any offer that did not allow for the “right of return.”
Rice recounted how on September 16, 2008 Olmert presented Abbas with a groundbreaking offer for a two-state solution including a map outlining the territory of a Palestinian state. Rice confirmed reports that Olmert insisted that Abbas sign then and there, but that Abbas “demurred, wanting to consult his experts before signing.”
Olmert, Rice said, refused to give Abbas the map – a fact that the Palestinians have said proves that Olmert’s offer was not serious.
But the Palestine Papers indicate that on September 16, the Palestinians drew-up a map that seems to outline with great specificity the offer made by Olmert, in spite of the fact that they complained he would not give them a copy of the map.
Abbas asked for a meeting the next day with his advisers present.
The meeting the next day was never held – Rice did not say why, but Olmert has since said that he received a call from Saeb Erekat requesting that the meeting be postponed.
The US administration seems to have been unaware that in preparation for the September 16 meeting the PA was trying to generate escape plans from reaching a binding agreement with Olmert, while at the same time avoiding being blamed for not reaching a final status agreement.
“SE [PA Negotiator Saeb Erekat] thinks there are three ways [Abbas] could respond: (1) Give [Olmert] our Framework Agreement on Permanent Status, (2) Issue general communique about Annapolis progress, (3) Simply say no to the offer,” one September 9, 2008 memo from Hala Rasheed read.
“He wants us to think up other ways to respond. Whatever we propose, he wants to make sure that: (a) we are not blamed, (b) [negotiations] are uninterrupted, and (c) no submission is made that we cannot retract.”
A memo to other NSU members dated September 16 from Wassim Khazmo, a communications adviser on the PA negotiating team, revealed that Palestinians intended to treat the September 16 meeting as “ceremonial” rather than directed toward advancing negotiations and possibly reaching a peace agreement.
“In order to avoid the blame game, the President today is going with a positive attitude, where he will ask more questions from Olmert on his offer, and he will tell him that the Palestinians will respond later,” Khazmo wrote.
Khazmo was particularly concerned that Abbas avoid what he described as “Olmert’s media stunts.”
Even after the September 16 meeting failed to culminate in a peace deal, Rice said that she continued to push hard for talks, “worried that there might never be another chance like this one.”
Her memoirs, however, are silent on the revelation in the Palestine Papers that the Palestinians were concerned by her insistence on advancing the peace plan.

Report: US sold Israel "bunker busting" bombs for settlement freeze

September 23, 2011

Obama, come back and massage my Hebrew Hiney again. You’ve been a pain in my tuchus for so long! now be gentle and don’t tell anyone (h/t Yoel and EOZ ) From Eli Lake at The Daily Beast/Newsweek:

While publicly pressuring Israel to make deeper concessions to the Palestinians, President Obama has secretly authorized significant new aid to the Israeli military that includes the sale of 55 deep-penetrating bombs known as bunker busters, Newsweek has learned.

In an exclusive story to be published Monday on growing military cooperation between the two allies, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Newsweek that the GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators—potentially useful in any future military strike against Iranian nuclear sites—were delivered to Israel in 2009, just several months after Obama took office.
The military sale was arranged behind the scenes as Obama’s demands for Israel to stop building settlements in disputed territories were fraying political relations between the two countries in public.

The Israelis first requested the bunker busters in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. At the time, the Pentagon had frozen almost all U.S.-Israeli joint defense projects out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.

In 2007, Bush informed Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010. The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the still-secret decision.

U.S. and Israeli officials told Newsweek that Israel had developed its own bunker-buster technology between 2005 and 2009, but the purchase from the U.S. was cheaper.

While the Obama administration has touted some public cooperation with the Israeli military, Newsweek’s article Monday will reveal other covert efforts by the U.S. military to aid Israel in the volatile Middle East region, and the impact the improving military cooperation has had on the sometimes chilly relations between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the president’s popularity in the American Jewish community.

The leak must be intentional.
The story is quite believable. US military cooperation with Israel has remained high even as diplomatic relations appeared strained. It also makes sense that this is why Netanyahu would have agreed to a settlement freeze to begin with.

Kiss and Tell

How ‘experts’ got it wrong

December 15, 2010

Op-ed: Demographic threat hyped up, Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria unnecessary

Moshe Dann
Opponents of Israel’s legal and historical rights to Judea and Samaria raise a powerful and persuasive argument: Israel faces a “demographic crisis;” the Arab population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River will soon outnumber that of the Jews, and the nature of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is in danger. They argue, therefore, that Israel must withdraw from what was known, under Jordanian occupation, as the “West Bank,” (to distinguish it from Jordan’s “East Bank”), including “eastern Jerusalem,” the Old City and Temple Mount, and create a second Arab Palestinian state (after Jordan); the Golan Heights, in this plan, would revert to Syria. This, they argue, would avoid charges of “occupation,” “oppression,” “racism,” “apartheid,” etc.; it does not relate to Palestinian Arabs who are Israeli citizens, or the “Nakba,” (Catastrophe) in 1948, Israel’s creation and what Palestinians consider “occupation.”
The “demographic argument” was used to convince former PM Yitzhak Rabin to agree to the Oslo Accords, and was promoted by the dominant left-wing media, former PMs Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, Israeli ministers and politicians, and PM Netanyahu. There’s only one problem: it’s a myth, part of a campaign to destroy the settlement movement; it has been thoroughly refuted by various studies, including Bar-Ilan University’s The Million Person Gap and work undertaken by The Institute for Zionist Strategies,
The fact is that today, nearly all non-Israeli Palestinians living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are under the PA. The Gaza Strip, under Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, is a separate entity, with its own army and administration, supported by the PA, but opposed to its controlling group, Fatah. “The occupation,” therefore, at least that since 1967, refers to territory, not people.
The legal status of the area is disputed and has never been adjudicated by a court of law. Organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UN and EU, political groups, and governments regard the area as “occupied” by Israel, without determining to whom it belongs; the question of its sovereignty is moot, subject to negotiation.
According to the Oslo Accords, Judea and Samaria was divided into three regions: A (under total PA control); B (under PA civilian control); C (under Israeli control). No Jews reside in areas A and B (comprising an estimated million-and-a-half residents); all Jewish communities/settlements (over 300,000 Jews) are in area C, along with about a few tens of thousands of Arab Palestinians (there are no accurate figures). In addition, over 200, 000 Jews live in new neighborhoods of Jerusalem established after 1967; these areas have already been virtually annexed.
There’s no crisis
If the entire area of Judea and Samaria is considered as a single unit, the demographic argument looks overwhelming. But, when the areas are separated – viewing area C alone, as distinctly Jewish – the perspective is quite different; there is no demographic threat.
Similarly, large concentrations of Arabs reside in pre-1967 Israel, primarily in the Negev and the Galilee. Looking at the entire population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, using the demographic argument, the situation looks grim, with Jews and Arabs almost equal. When the areas are seen as discrete, however, the perspective changes, and the alleged demographic threat dissipates.
The argument that withdrawal is necessary to “preserve Israel’s Jewish character,” moreover, is vague, and contradicts the support for including hundreds of thousands of non-Jews, Arabs, Africans, and others seeking to live in Israel. Concern for the humanitarian rights of illegal immigrants seems to trump maintaining Israel’s Jewish identity.
Moreover, an estimated several hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish, many with no connection to Judaism, were given citizenship. Although many of them serve in the IDF and have applied for conversion, this is a controversial issue between those who expect sincere commitment according to Jewish law, and those who demand less, or none at all.
In other words, demographic arguments, including questions like, “Who is a Jew?” and “What is Israelism?” are complicated societal issues which cannot be resolved, or understood by simplistic notions, manipulating statistics, and hyping scare tactics.
There is no crisis, nor urgency to abandon Judea and Samaria in order to save the State of Israel. In fact, given realistic assessments of the threat a Palestinian state poses to Israel, the most reasonable solution is to leave things as they are.
The author is an historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem

One Makes Peace with a Former Enemy not an Enemy

March 11, 2010

Pipes makes some observations that are very good:

Rabin’s mistake was simple and profound: One cannot “make peace with one’s enemy,” as he imagined. Rather, one makes peace with one’s former enemy. Peace nearly always requires one side in a conflict to be defeated and thus give up its goals.

Wars end not through goodwill but through victory. “Let your great object [in war] be victory” observed Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist. “War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will,” wrote his nineteenth-century Prussian successor, Karl von Clausewitz in 1832. Douglas MacArthur observed in 1951 that in “war, there is no substitute for victory.”

Technological advancement has not altered this insight. Fighting either continues or potentially can resume so long as both sides hope to achieve their war goals. Victory consists of imposing one’s will on the enemy, compelling him to give up his war ambitions. Wars typically end when one side gives up hope, when its will to fight has been crushed.

Defeat, one might think, usually follows on devastating battlefield losses, as was the case of the Axis in 1945. But that has rarely occurred during the past sixty years. Battlefield losses by the Arab states to Israel in 1948-82, by North Korea in 1953, by Saddam Hussein in 1991, and by Iraqi Sunnis in 2003 did not translate into despair and surrender. Morale and will matter more these days. Although they out-manned and out-gunned their foes, the French gave up in Algeria, the Americans in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Cold War ended, notably, with barely a fatality. Crushing the enemy’s will to fight, then, does not necessarily mean crushing the enemy.

but then I question this aspect of what he is saying:

In place of victory, Israelis developed an imaginative array of approaches to manage the conflict:

  • Territorial compromise: Yitzhak Rabin (and the Oslo process).
  • Develop the Palestinian economy: Shimon Peres (and the Oslo process).
  • Unilateralism (build a wall, withdraw from Gaza): Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and the Kadima party.
  • Lease the land under Israeli towns on the West Bank for 99 years: Amir Peretz and the Labor Party.
  • Encourage the Palestinians to develop good government: Natan Sharansky (and George W. Bush).
  • Territorial retreat: Israel’s Left.
  • Exclude disloyal Palestinians from Israeli citizenship: Avigdor Lieberman.
  • Offer Jordan as Palestine: elements of Israel’s Right.
  • Expel Palestinians from lands controlled by Israel: Meir Kahane.

Contradictory in spirit and mutually exclusive as they are, these approaches all aim to finesse war rather than win it. Not one of them addresses the need to break the Palestinian will to fight. Just as the Oslo negotiations failed, I predict that so too will every Israeli scheme that avoids the hard work of winning.


I would argue that “Exclude disloyal Palestinians from Israeli citizenship: Avigdor Lieberman.” and “Expel Palestinians from lands controlled by Israel: Meir Kahane.” would break the wills of Palestine very well. but Daniel Pipes is right that we need to break their will. I don’t think we will break wills by allowing people who kill Jews hiding behind Gharqad trees to live with us.

as a clear policy in my opinion all governments around the world with Islamic populations should ask these citizens what they believe. If there is evidence that they believe that they can kill Jews behind trees or murder converts, then the easy solution would be to deport them. If Israel would do this very Democratic practice of protecting it’s citizens from hate all of this would be conjecture. If they mean to kill others because of what they believe then they do not belong as citizens. of course we understand that part of Islamic law allows these people to lie. For this reason you just find evidence like any other murder plot. If Israel had been applying this law from the start then there would be no more conflict. What country would deny a people the right to not be murdered? Perhaps Europe and the West should also take note that there is a very fair way to deal with hate.