Former PM Olmert: Netanyahu Is Isolating Israel From the Rest of the World

Olmert rebukes PM's decision to expand construction in settlements, says Israel is going to pay 'a difficult price' for it.

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday lambasted current premier Benjamin Netanyahu over his decision to expand construction in the settlements of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in response to the United Nations decision to approve upgrading the status of the Palestinian Authority.

"I fear this issue has caused much discomfort in states across the world," Olmert told Channel Two's Meet the Press in an interview Saturday evening. "[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is isolating the State of Israel from entire world in an unprecedented way, and we are going to pay a difficult price for this in every aspect of our lives."

"I think the State of Israel acted inappropriately, which was a kind of slap in the face of the president of the United States," Olmert told interviewer Dana Weiss, of Channel Two. "I was the one who included E-1 in the territory of Israel in my peace plan. The argument isn't whether or not E-1 should be a part of the territory of Israel. Three days after the U.S. president proved that he was willing to use his influence for the good of the State of Israel and was left alone with another eight countries alongside Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, with all the European nations abstaining, and then the next day they announce the construction of housing units that for 15 years have been ready to go up but were not built because it was decided that the time wasn't opportune. This is a decision that isolates the State of Israel from the entire world."

Olmert also commented on speculation of his return to Israeli politics. "Immediately after the sentencing in my trial, I announced that I would not return to politics," Olmert insisted.

He said the pressure to return to politics began after his recent acquittal from the Talansky and Rishon Tours cases. "After my acquittal, systematic pressure of the likes I cannot remember began. A ceaseless stream of from all circles and all across Israel and the four corners of the world called out: 'Run Olmert, run.' I looked at the political playing field, at the behavior, especially in the block that is closer to my opinions, and reached the conclusion that I don't want to be in that place in that block at this time."

"The only politician I met with on this subject was [former opposition leader] Tzipi Livni," Olmert added. "We met once and discussed in her home the possibility, one out of many, that if I run she would run with me. We agreed that we would each make our own decision. I didn't speak with journalists. I didn't conduct any in-depth polling. I was shown some encouraging polls, but I understood that the political system is fragmented and full of emotion and wild with hate."

"Livni told me unequivocally that she would support me if I decided to run," he added. "She and I agreed that we would each make up our mind. I think she is a worthy candidate, and I would definitely vote for her if I had to choose between her and Netanyahu, but she isn't the only option. I think [current Kadima Chairman] Shaul Mofaz is especially qualified, as a person who headed Israel's security establishment," the former premier said, adding: "I very much recommend we concentrate our efforts on opposing the policies of the State of Israel that is are real problem."

"I feel a great discomfort from the way this system is conducted from the outset of the elections," he said. "There is slander and mudslinging, and uncivilized discourse in the political system. It is time for a different kind of conduct."

Olmert also talked about the legal proceedings currently taking place against him, and said that State Prosecutor Moshe Lador waspersonally persecuting him. "The day that the election committee announced that there was nothing to impede my running in the elections, three hours after the announcement was made; Lador decided that there will be an appeal. When the State Attorney's Office what for, they answered that they did not yet know," Olmert said. "This is a blatant interference of a man who was forced to apologize after I filed a law suit against hi, for slander, and yet he is the person who is supposed to make a decision on my case. This is a personal witch hunt against me. This witch hunt put me in a position whereby I was forced, as was the case when I was prime minister, to give up a position in the public service because I am forced to dedicate so much time to the courtroom, I cannot give my 100% to the running of the state."

The State Prosecutor's Office submitted an appeal on Olmert's acquittal to the High Court about a month ago. In doing so, the possibility that the former premier would run again grew slim. His defense team appealed against three of the central cases facing Olmert: Rishon Tours affair, Talansky, and the Investment Center affair.

Regarding his acquittal in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs, Olmert said: "I believed that what happened would happen, that I would be exonerated from most of the wrongdoing I was charged with having to do with personal corruption, and I wasn't found wrong."

"I was charged with accepting envelopes of money for my personal use, not for political donations, when these allegations were put forward they asked if I took the money into my own pocket," he went on to say. "The court completely exonerated me. The court accepted my version that the money wasn't intended for my personal use. "

"Everyone knows that I wasn't acquitted out of reasonable doubt, I was acquitted by a unanimous decision of three judges," Olmert added. "There is no doubt that there was no money for my personal use. The allegations that led to my resignation were the same one's that I was exonerated from.   

Ehud Olmert in court, September 5, 2012.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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