Olmert's Legal Team: Police Recommendation 'Insignificant'

Attorneys say decision to indict PM up to Mazuz, police recommendations 'only meant to make headlines.'

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday played down the police recommendation to indict him. His lawyers and media adviser put out the message that "the police's recommendation is insignificant." Nonetheless, Olmert decided to cancel a planned trip to Moscow, and is expected to call off his scheduled appearance at the UN General Assembly in New York at the end of the month.

Last evening, Olmert's team of lawyers, Eli Zohar, Navot Tel-Tzur and Roey Belcher, released a prepared announcement, whose timing was coordinated with the release of the police statement. "The only person who by law can determine whether or not to indict the prime minister is the attorney general [Menachem Mazuz]," it read. "He has the authority and the matter is his responsibility."

Olmert's lawyers added: "The police's recommendations have no legal significance. It would be better if the police were to completely avoid expressing opinions."

The prime minister and his lawyers hope for a repeat of the past. Recommendations to indict the serving prime minister have been passed along by the police on three occasions in the past, but charges were not filed in any of them. "We'll wait patiently for the decision of the attorney general who, no doubt and unlike the police, is aware of the gravity of the situation," said the statement from Olmert's lawyers.

Amir Dan, Olmert's media adviser, lambasted the police. "Their sole purpose was to make headlines," he said. "We've seen that when things come to court, like in the Morris Talansky deposition, everything changes. The police had no other option than to recommend an indictment because they have to justify the fact that they deposed a presiding prime minister."

Olmert's lawyers also quoted former state comptroller and former Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg, who has criticized the police practice of attaching its recommendations to the findings of its investigations. "The reality in which the police recommends indicting someone or not causes confusion among the public," said the lawyers' statement. "Why should the police decide one way and the prosecution another? It's unnecessary. It adds nothing."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office is trying to convey a message of calm, as it continues to push forward talks with Syria and the Palestinians. From its point of view, so long as Olmert is in office he still has full legitimacy to carry out diplomatic moves. Olmert's advisers say that the prime minister will carry out his commitment to quit after the primary election in his Kadima party, and that he will serve as an interim prime minister until a new government is formed or elections held. "He has no intention to go on holiday or go on a leave of absence," they said. "The only question is for how long he will remain in office after the primary - a week, a month or six months."

Some of Olmert's plans have been sidelined by the police's decision. For instance, he was scheduled to travel to Moscow on September 14. Hotel rooms were booked and security arrangements initiated, but the PMO informed the Israeli Embassy in Moscow that the visit was on hold until further notice. Olmert also planned to fly to New York on the 23rd of the month to address the United Nations General Assembly. Sunday the PMO announced that that plan too was deferred until further notice.