Ex-Israeli PM Olmert Signs Plea Deal With State for Time Served

Under deal, former prime minister to confess to two counts of obstruction of justice, and stipulates he will serve forthcoming sentence concurrently with 18 months already dealt in Holyland case.

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Israel's Former Prime Minister Ehud OlmertCredit: Reuters / File photo
Sharon Pulwer

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signed a plea bargain with the prosecution Monday whereby he will confess to obstruction of justice but not serve additional jail time for it. 

However, the Supreme Court is slated to hear appeals Tuesday on two other cases involving Olmert, and if he loses on either one, it could put him in prison beyond the 18 months he is about to begin serving for the Holyland bribery case.  

Under the deal reached Monday, Olmert will confess to two counts of obstruction of justice in a case in which he hadn’t previously been indicted and agree to a six-month jail sentence plus a fine of 50,000 shekels (about $12,600). In exchange, the prosecution will agree to the jail term being served concurrently with the 18-month sentence Olmert received for taking a bribe in the Holyland bribery case. Olmert will start serving his prison term on February 15.

The indictment in the obstruction of justice case, which was filed Monday after the plea bargain was signed, is based on two recorded conversations between Olmert and his former chief aide, Shula Zaken, that Zaken gave prosecutors as part of her own plea bargain in the Holyland case. 

In one tape, Olmert can be heard trying to persuade Zaken not to testify against him in three earlier corruption cases. The tape was made in May 2011 at a Jerusalem hotel where they met to discuss the cases. Olmert warned Zaken that prosecutor Uri Korb would “slaughter her” on the witness stand. He also warned Zaken that she wouldn’t be acquitted unless he was, too. 

“Remember one thing: If I’m not acquitted, nobody will be acquitted,” he said.

Zaken ultimately didn’t testify, and ended up being convicted in a case in which Olmert was cleared.

In the second tape, Olmert can be heard urging Zaken not to sign a plea bargain in the Holyland case, saying this would undermine his chances of acquittal. In exchange, he offered to support her and her family, find her a lawyer and help pay her legal expenses, the indictment said.

At a later meeting in Zaken’s house, where she showed Olmert the draft plea bargain, he again urged her not to sign it, but said that if she did, she should demand certain changes – which he specified – to protect him. 

Olmert’s associates said he accepted the plea bargain because he is exhausted and also wants to spare his family the suffering of another trial.

Nevertheless, his attorneys failed to reach an agreement with the prosecution on yet another case. In the Talansky case, Olmert was convicted of accepting cash-filled envelopes from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky and failing to report the income. A lower court sentenced him to eight months in prison, but the Supreme Court is slated to hear his appeal against both the conviction and the sentence Tuesday.

Olmert had offered to drop his appeal if the prosecution would let this sentence, too, be served concurrently with the Holyland sentence, which is already final. But the prosecution refused, as it wants the sentences served consecutively, which would mean that Olmert spends 26 months in jail altogether.

The Supreme Court will therefore hear the appeal of the Talansky verdict Tuesday as planned. It will also hear the state’s appeal of Olmert’s acquittal in the Rishon Tours case, in which he was accused of double-billing various nonprofit organizations for overseas flights and pocketing the difference.

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