Olmert ‘strong, stable’ as he enters jail

Netanyahu appears to mock his predecessor: ‘I came to court voluntarily.’

February 15, 2016 00:19
2 minute read.
Ehud Olmert

Former PM Ehud Olmert . (photo credit: AMIT SHABAY/POOL)

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was feeling “good, strong and stable” Sunday on the eve of his entrance into Ma’asiyahu Prison to begin serving sentences totaling at least 19 months, an Olmert confidant who spoke to him said.

Olmert spent the day at his home in the Jerusalem western suburb of Motza with his family, receiving phone calls from well-wishers.

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Former colleagues and current friends of Olmert avoided the media, preferring to quietly console him.

But those who were willing to go on record, spoke about his contributions to the country and the loss to the Jewish state caused by the end of his political career.

“I hope he will withstand the challenges of prison and make it out completely intact,” said Sallai Meridor, who was Olmert’s ambassador to the US. “He is a friend of mine who did a lot to benefit Israel, and I hope he passes through this period in peace.”

Meridor, whose family has been close to the Olmerts for decades, said he would make sure to visit Olmert in prison.

Former justice minister Meir Sheetrit said he was sad for Olmert even though he had many disagreements with the former prime minister, who blocked his political advancement.

He said he spoke to him several times recently and saw the effect on him of years of legal battles.

“He was courageous and advanced the country positively toward the peace process,” Sheetrit said. “He was a very good prime minister. His entering prison is definitely very sad, not only for him and his family but also for the country and society. The fact that no one is above the law is a source of pride for Israel and its legal system but it doesn’t make it any less sad.”

Sheetrit said he hoped Olmert would be the last politician who goes to jail, though he encouraged the police and prosecution to continue seeking out MKs who commit crimes.

“You can’t fight corruption by being nice,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to mock his predecessor at the Israel Democracy Institute’s International Advisory Council gala event at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. He spoke about his testimony to the Supreme Court about his controversial natural gas framework in a way that appeared to the crowd to be contrasting himself with Olmert.

“This is a historic day because a prime minister of Israel has never gone to court voluntarily,” he said.

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