The six-year sentence Ehud Olmert received for his bribery conviction was “cruel,” the former prime minister’s confidants said Tuesday.
Sources close to Olmert said he was surprised not only by the verdict but also by Judge David Rozen’s use of the word traitor to describe him. Nevertheless, they expressed confidence that he could win his appeal.
Asked about Olmert’s sentencing by reporters in Oslo, President Shimon Peres expressed sadness over the fate of his former colleague in the Kadima Party.
“What happened to Olmert is part of the legal process in democracy,” he said. “This is a sad day. What can I say? You cannot mix personal with principles.”
Knesset members expressed hope Tuesday that Olmert’s sentence would deter politicians from corruption in the future. Within seconds of his sentencing, MKs rushed to be the first to condemn him and to express frustration in retrospect that he had been Israel’s leader.
“It is unfortunate that someone so corrupt controlled the state and our lives,” former Labor leader, MK Shelly Yacimovich said. “But we can be proud that we live in a clean democracy in which all citizens are equal under the law and justice is seen and done.”
Yacimovich said she hoped the sentencing would restore the public’s faith in the rule of law. She accused Olmert of sending associates to attack and threaten legal authorities for doing their jobs.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On said the sentencing would “open a new chapter and purify the top echelons of Israeli politics from corruption.”
She slammed Olmert for “using every possible manipulation to avoid recognizing the depth of his ethical defilement” rather than express remorse.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that she has “full trust in the legal authorities.”
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that the sentencing of Olmert was a sad, but important day for Israel.
“The day a former prime minister is sent to prison is a sad day for Israeli democracy and a sad day for me personally,” Lapid stated. “However, at the same time, it is an important day for the legal system that showed that no man is above the law.”
The Campaign to Save the People and the Land released a statement saying that Olmert had been punished by God for his role in the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
“The disengagement curse did not pass over Olmert, who was the satanic brain behind the plan to expel the Jews of Gush Katif,” the statement said.
“He was sentenced to his natural place behind bars. None of those who initiated and implemented the expulsion have avoided punishment.”
The campaign noted the recent death of former prime minister Ariel Sharon and warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to learn lessons about what could happen if he “surrenders to American pressure” and takes steps against the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
Lahav Harkov and Daniel Clinton contributed to this report.