Ehud Olmert 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday at the beginning of his
corruption trial, "I went through a lot of pain and distress to reach
this moment. I am fighting for my life, and not for anything else."
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arrived at the Jerusalem District Court to defend himself against
charges which include double-billing voluntary and other
public organizations, as well as the state, and using the extra money to
finance private trips for himself and his family.
went on to say, "The things that I am saying connect with who I am, not
the man that I was portrayed as being. It is important that you know who
I really am."
Throughout the morning Olmert testified about his
life story, beginning with his childhood in Binyamina and his military
service. He also talked about his introduction into politics as an
activist. He later explained how he opened his own private law firm
where he met Shula Zaken, a former aide and another suspect in the
Regarding his relationship with Zaken, Olmert said that he trusted her completely. According to Olmert, Zaken was involved in every aspect of his life, from meetings, to fund-raising to managing his personal funds.
"If it wasn't for Shula I wouldn't know the condition of my bank overdraft. She had the authority to pay my bills and write checks in my name. I hadn't met with my bank manager for 30 years. She took care of everything."
"I put my trust in her. She was my confidant and still is despite the circumstances," said Olmert.
Afterward, he spoke about his political career and his
time in the Likud Party. He talked about his work as a young Knesset
member and his trips abroad where he represented Israel.
his race for Jerusalem mayor, Olmert met for the first time with Morris
Talansky who was beneficial to his campaign and was later accused of
bribing the former prime minister.
Olmert testified that
Talansky's role was to raise money for his mayoral campaign and
introduce Olmert to potential donors from the US. Talansky turned to his
network of acquaintances and donors, who he knew from fund-raising for
the Shaarei Tzadeck hospital, requesting that they donate to the mayoral
"Talansky was portrayed as an international
businessman and a billionaire, but in truth he was an employee who
earned a generous salary in local terms, but far from the way he is
being described today," said Olmert.
"The money was raised in
meetings and dinners organized by Talansky. Empty envelopes were left on
the table and whoever wanted to, could donate by cash payments, credit
card or checks," Olmert said.
"I want you to know what I did for
years and who I met with. I'm not talking about 15 trips, I'm talking
about hundreds of trips over the years, during which I raised millions
of dollars for the Likud. I'm trying to unload the troubles that I've
been plagued with for three years," said Olmert.
Olmert said that
in his hundreds of trips abroad, whether for fund-raising purposes or
for official duties, he had never taken personal time off.
"I used to work nonstop day after day and was never tempted to stay behind for a weekend vacation," he said.
said that the prosecution's short list of trips that he allegedly
double-billed was an unfair representation of his wide scale activities
over the years. "You must remember that we are talking about the early
90's when Jerusalem was at the heart of the discourse after the Oslo
accords. Everyone wanted to hear the mayor of Jerusalem talk about the
city," he said.
one point during the testimony, while recalling former prime minister
Yitzhak Shamir, his emotions got the better of him and he shed a tear.
Before the former prime minister took to the
stand, his attorney, Eli Zohar, said that "Olmert was forced to resign
from his position as prime minister because of the preliminary testimony
of the central witness, Morris Talansky."
Olmert's lawyer asked the court to be patient so that each and every
claim would be answered. He also said that every part of the testimony
would have a bearing on the outcome of the trial.
On Monday, the court rejected Olmert's request to delay his testimony by two weeks for medical reasons.
He said he was suffering from an affliction in his eye
but on Tuesday morning he looked fit and healthy and related anecdotes
and stories from his past.
Sources close to the former prime minister said he does not plan to fight the prosecution while on the witness stand.Dan Izenberg contributed to this report.