Former prime minister Ehud Olmert took the stand for the first time in the
Holyland corruption trial against him on Sunday, attacking the integrity of the
state’s main witness and the prosecution, as well as his brother Yossi, while
vehemently denying he ever took bribes.
Olmert frequently slammed his
fist on the witness stand at the Tel Aviv District Court and appeared to be
genuinely furious. He said that the claims Shmuel Duchner, who died mid-trial in
March, made against him were a lie.
The only reason “my name was wrongly
injected into this was to get millions from the state,” Olmert said.
lashed out at the state, and when Judge David Rozen requested that he not attack
the state in such personal terms, he retorted angrily that the prosecution had
accused him of “being corrupt.”
The former prime minister also denied the
allegation that he had asked Duchner to pay NIS 350,000 to his bureau chief
Shula Zaken as a bribe for him.
Next, Olmert denied knowledge of
Duchner’s allegations that he had paid significant funds to Olmert’s brother
Yossi and purchased other expensive items for Zaken as bribes at Olmert’s behest
to obtain his support for the Holyland real estate project in
He questioned the trustworthiness of testimony given by
Duchner, saying that “the Duchner I met in 1994 was not the Duchner I met in
When asked if he was bribed by Duchner, as Duchner had
claimed, Olmert said, “It never was and it never happened. It’s a lie and made
up.” Olmert also denied knowledge of Duchner giving NIS 350,000 or other gifts
and jewelry to his former bureau chief Shula Zaken.
When asked about a
document Duchner admitted he forged to boost the case against him, the former
prime minister said, “Duchner’s job was falsifying, so why be surprised?” The
former prime minister became visibly angry when discussing the forged document.
He slammed his hand on the table and attacked the state for allowing its main
witness to bring a forged document into the court and not checking its
“All of Duchner’s false stories were created to convince
the state that they had a big fish and to bring down Ehud Olmert,” he proclaimed
on the witness stand.
He added that he had “expected more” from the
prosecution, implying that if it had submitted documents to the court that
Duchner later admitted were forgeries, then it had not carefully checked
Regarding his brother Yossi, Ehud said that their
relationship was “weak,” filled with “tension” and that he was careful to “keep
his distance” from him.
Ehud explained that he had multiple conflicts
In several instances, because he believed Yossi was not
qualified, Ehud did not support his brother in eventually failed runs for
political office, nor did he help him obtain plum jobs that he had asked his
help in getting.
Ehud also said his brother was angry when he gave him
only NIS 10,000 to help with his debts and that Yossi said he needed “millions”
to pay them.
The former prime minister also said that because of their
distance, he did not know how desperately poor his brother’s financial situation
In that vein, Ehud said it was preposterous that he would have gone
out of his way to have Duchner pay Yossi NIS 500,000 to help with his
Rather, Ehud said, if he had been ready to help his brother in a
larger way than he was already doing, he would have helped him get a better job
and in a legal fashion.
Olmert said that many of the scenarios that the
prosecution was entertaining in interpreting various events in the worst
possible light against him, such as that he would obtain bribes to help his
estranged brother, showed that it would go after him “for anything” and it was
treating him as if he were “a fool.”
Earlier in his testimony on Sunday,
Olmert said the Holyland project was “important for developing Jerusalem,” was
“right to do at the time, and the right thing to do in retrospect.”