Talansky Sticks to Guns in Cross-exam

Attorneys for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cross-examined yesterday Morris Talansky, the American-based fund-raiser who is the key witness of the prosecution in the "cash envelopes affair."

However, in contrast to promises by the prime minister's defense team to discredit Talansky's testimony against Olmert, after seven hours of questioning in Jerusalem District Court attorney Eli Zohar appeared unable to deliver the goods: No matter how many times he attacked Talansky's testimony the audience appeared unimpressed.

At one point he turned to his colleague, attorney Roi Blecher, and said: "The audience is losing its patience, what shall we do?"

Indeed, it did not matter what he pulled out of his hat: rumors about a questionable past, depositions on forceful collection of debts, claims about loans with exorbitant high interest rates and astronomical sums of money that have passed through the Talansky's bank account. Nothing could match the drama of his original deposition.

Perhaps it had to do with the fact that Olmert's name was barely mentioned, and even then only with regard to marginal matters.

Zohar sought to get Talansky to admit that his previous statements to the police were inaccurate. "Did they shout at you?" he asked.

"Oh yes, that tactic was perfect," Talansky responded.

"Please confirm for me that under the pressure of the investigation you said things even if you did not recall them precisely," Zohar urged. "Is it true that when you realized that you didn't have a response you also said fictitious things?"

"I do not believe I invented stories," Talansky responded, but after an exhaustive series of questions he admitted that he also told the police things that were not true.

Zohar revealed that during the staged confrontation between Talansky and Olmert's former office manager, Shula Zaken, he had said about Olmert: "I hope that he will not hire an assassin." Zohar asked Talansky whether the comment was made in seriousness.

"It could have been the result of sudden fear," he said.

Zohar also claimed that Talansky had been promised by the prosecution that he would not be a suspect in the affair.

"I tell you that a deal was done with you," Zohar said, "it is not formal but you know that nothing will be used against you."