Ehud Olmert is motivated to return to politics following his acquittal in all but one one corruption charge against him, the former prime minister’s confidants said Tuesday.
Olmert, 67, fueled speculation surrounding his return to politics in a press conference following his verdict when he said, “This will not be the last time you hear from me,” and when he vowed to correct “procedural errors” that led to his conviction for breach of public trust in the Investment Center affair case.
His associates said he still felt bitter about the way Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other politicians forced him to quit when corruption allegations surfaced.
But his return could be delayed or prevented by the ongoing Holyland trial, his health problems and his wife Aliza’s opposition, they said.
The next election is set for October 2013, and it is unclear whether the Holyland trial will be completed by then, unless Olmert’s lawyers try to expedite it in order to facilitate his political comeback. Even if the court deemed Olmert’s breach of trust conviction as having moral turpitude, he would not be legally barred from running for the next Knesset or being appointed a minister.
Current Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz has fared poorly in recent polls.
Several Kadima MKs encouraged Olmert to return to politics following the verdict.
MK Ronnie Bar-On, who is close to Olmert, recounted a recent experience with him at a public event in which a train of people came up to the former prime minister and told him how much they missed him.
“Ehud Olmert was a terrific prime minister and Kadima leader,” Bar-On said. “If he wants to come back – and I think he does – he will find his place, and others will do the math and find their place. And if he doesn’t, there are those who will make him want to come back.”
MKs Yoel Hasson and Ruhama Avraham-Balila issued statements expressing hope that Olmert’s acquittal “paves the way to his comeback to politics, where his persona has been missing for the past few years.” “We lost one of the best prime ministers Israel knew, because of the hastiness of the state’s attorney,” MK Yuval Zellner said. “I hope for Olmert’s sake and ours that he will return to the country’s leadership so we won’t miss an opportunity for a leader of his stature.”
Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg said he did not believe the Holyland case should prevent Olmert’s comeback because he is innocent until proven guilty.
“A prime minister toppled on live TV could be a prime minister in waiting,” Burg said. “The political map has changed. If before today people said there was no one except Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] to vote for, now it is clear that there is an alternative candidate who was seen by many as a good prime minister.”
Tamara Zieve contributed to this report.