When the PM Met Talansky

Long Island mogul Morris Talansky is a longtime acquaintance of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, even before the latter was elected Jerusalem mayor. Olmert used to call Talansky "my dear old friend," and his aides referred to him as "Mr. T." Olmert's close associates called Talansky "the banker" or "the launderer."

Talansky has been named as one of the contributors to Olmert's mayoral campaign in 1998. Olmert's associates say Talansky used to meet Olmert when he visited Israel in his bureau or in a Jerusalem hotel lobby. When Olmert visited New York the two usually met in Olmert's hotel suite.

Some Jerusalem municipal officials remember Talansky's visits. "He used to go directly inside without stopping for small talk with advisers and secretaries," said a former senior city official who worked with Olmert.

Veteran city officials said an ultra-Orthodox contractor and political wheeler dealer, Yehuda Peli, introduced Olmert to Talansky.

Talansky, who was executive director of the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center for over 20 years, is believed to have met Olmert during this period. Olmert frequently attended Shaare Zedek dinners and other fundraising events sponsored by the Jerusalem-based hospital.

Talansky's associates have recently denied reports that he was a right-wing activist who was acting against Olmert for ideological reasons. They said Olmert and Talansky kept close ties even after Olmert modified his political approach and supported the disengagement.