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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Four witnesses, whose organizations were allegedly double-billed by former prime minister Ehud Olmert when he raised money for them abroad, expressed their gratitude to him on Monday for always making himself available to help them out and for being an outstanding and effective speaker.
During Monday’s hearing in the trial of Olmert and his former close aide, Shula Zaken, at the Jerusalem District Court, at least one of the witnesses appeared to indicate that he was not particularly troubled by the fact that his organization had been double-billed.
The witnesses included Avi Pazner, former head of Keren Hayesod, Shmuel Rosenmann, head of The March of the Living, Yehuda Marmorstein, head of Aleh, which cares for special-needs children, and Avner Shalev, head of Yad Vashem.
According to the indictment, Olmert visited Belgium and the US between February 8 and February 15, 2005. He spoke or traveled on behalf of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, Israel Bonds, the March of the Living and an organization whose initials are WFP. Olmert allegedly charged a total of $33,843 to the government and the nonprofit organizations, which was $8,065 more than he paid for the tickets. He charged The March of the Living $19,557 for tickets to Los Angeles for himself and a bodyguard.
The state’s representative, attorney Uri Korb, asked Rosenmann how he felt when he found out that three other bodies had also paid for Olmert’s flight. Rosenmann’s first reaction was, “In principle, if we had been asked to pay more money for Olmert to appear, I would have paid almost any sum.”
But Rosenmann added that had he known he was quadruple-billed, “I would
not have liked it. Had I known that there was a surplus left over, I
would have been ready to lower our expenses.”
Asked again by Korb what he would have done had he known in advance, Rosenmann replied, “I would not have paid.”
Avi Pazner, who has known Olmert since 1975, also praised Olmert’s
skills as a public speaker and fund-raiser and added that Olmert had
often spoken on behalf of Keren Hayesod, including in Israel, where he
was not paid any expenses.
Asked how he felt when he heard that Olmert had billed three
organizations, including his own, for a trip to the US, Canada and the
Far East, Pazner said, “I was simply shocked, sad, found it hard to
believe that something like this had happened. I asked the police a
couple of times, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?”
Pazner told Korb that if more than one body had sent Olmert on the
trip, they should have shared the cost. Had he known that the Ministry
of Industry, Trade and Labor and Aleh-Canada had also paid for Olmert’s
tickets, he would not have agreed to the arrangement.
According to the indictment, Keren Hayesod paid $13,048 for Olmert’s
trip to Las Vegas. At the same time, the Ministry of Industry, Trade
and Labor paid $16,639 and Aleh-Canada paid $14,287. The actual cost of
Olmert’s ticket was $16,639 and he allegedly ended up with a surplus of
As in the first day of witness testimony in the Rishon Tours case, none
of the witnesses linked Olmert to the billing process. They also said
that none of them had spoken to Zaken, the other defendant in this
indictment, about the flight tickets. Their contacts had all been with
Rachel Risbi-Raz, who is standing trial separately in the same affair.