Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was acquitted on Tuesday of all charges in two corruption cases, while being partially convicted in another. He still faces additional charges of corruption related to the Holyland real-estate scandal. That trial is ongoing.
Olmert's bureau chief, Shula Zaken, was convicted of fraud and breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case.
Following his acquittal, Olmert told reporters that he had never committed any acts of corruption. He did, however, acknowledge that he had breached the public's trust, and promised to "learn the necessary lessons" from the episode.
The verdict was seen as a major embarrassment for the state prosecutor's office, which had staked much on the case. Some Knesset members have even begun calling for an investigation into its decision to indict Olmert.
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, for his part, defended his actions, calling the decision to press charges "our public duty." "Had we shelved these affairs we would have betrayed our responsibilities," he said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Following the verdict, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was among the many who called to congratulate Olmert. Abbas, who has had little contact with current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, conducted extensive negotiations with Olmert when the latter was in office.
Meanwhile, the state's witness in the separate, Holyland case, known as "S.D.", told the Tel Aviv District that he gave Olmert over a million dollars in bribes when he was Jerusalem's mayor, which was used to cover debts racked up to underworld figures by Olmert's brother.
Barak Ravid writes that the verdict may pave the way for Olmert's eventual return to politics, the prospect of which has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians squirming in their chairs.
Yossi Verter notes that the scandals for which Olmert was acquitted this week were the reason he was forced to leave office, shamed and humiliated, and wonders if the charges against him in the Holyland case rest on firmer ground.
Ari Shavit is glad that the man who was Israel's prime minister will not be going to jail. Olmert is a talented and charismatic man, he writes, and deserves congratulations.
Amir Oren writes that the biggest losers from the verdict were actually Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who benefited from Olmert's forced resignation in 2008.
Carlo Strenger asks: What would have happened if Ehud Olmert had remained prime minister?
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