Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert Knesset 2008

Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician who has served as Israel's Prime Minister, Deputy Premier, Finance Minister and Mayor of Jerusalem.

Born in Binyamina in 1945, Olmert practiced as a lawyer before entering politics. During his army service in the IDF, he served as a combat infantry officer and then as a military correspondent for the IDF journal Bamechane. His political career began in 1973 when he was elected to the Knesset.

In 1993 he became mayor of Jerusalem, during which time he advanced national infrastructure projects and significantly developed Jerusalem’s road, water, and sewage infrastructures. During his time as mayor, Olmert provided strong backing and advocacy for strengthening Jewish settlements in the areas surrounding Jerusalem.

In 2003 Olmert was re-elected to the Knesset, and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade, in the new government of Ariel Sharon. Olmert quickly became an influential cabinet member and assumed a more dovish approach with his politics. He became one of the first Likud members to advocate disengagement from Gaza, which Sharon implemented in 2005. The Gaza disengagement was met with fierce opposition from many hardliners within the Likud Party and in November 2005, Olmert left the Likud Party with Ariel Sharon and joined the new Kadima Party.

In the midst of the transition from Likud to Kadima, Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke and Olmert became acting Prime Minister of Israel. In the following elections, as the new head of the Kadima Party, Olmert formally became the new Prime Minister. In the first year of Olmert’s premiership, a shadow fell over his government following its handling of Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Accusations of mismanagement and public pressure forced the Olmert government to issue an inquiry into the war, which accused Olmert of serious failings in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence during the war.

Olmert’s remaining time in office was marred by investigations into corruption charges from earlier in his career. The investigations and allegations of corruption led Olmert to announce his resignation in July 2008 as leader of the Kadima Party, and, following a leadership contest, the party leadership was transferred to Foreign Minster Tzipi Livni. Olmert’s term as prime minister officially ended after Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu managed to form a coalition government in March 2009, following a general election.

In August 2009, Olmert became the first former Israeli prime minister to face criminal proceedings, after he was indicted on three corruption charges relating to his time as a cabinet minister and mayor of Jerusalem.

On July 10, 2012 Olmert was acquitted of the charges against him in two major cases, and convicted only of breach of trust, in the Investments center affair. Jerusalem District Court president, Moussia Arad, headed the panel of judges that found Olmert not guilty of the charges in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs, and convicted him only on one count – breach of trust, in the Investment Center affair.