Olmert: I never said I was returning to politics

Former prime minister cites “personal persecution” by Labor, poor behavior of Center-Left as reasons for staying out of race.

Olmert on Channel 2 370 (photo credit: Screenshot Channel 2)
Olmert on Channel 2 370
(photo credit: Screenshot Channel 2)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday insisted he never intended to run in the current election, despite the many reports to the contrary.
“I have never faced such pressure in my whole political career from all over Israel and the world, saying ‘Run, Olmert, run,” he said of requests that he return to the political arena.
“I was never close to coming back, and I never told any writers I was running.”
Olmert told Channel 2’s Meet the Press that, as a result of the pressure, he briefly considered running, but decided not to because of the divisions in the Center-Left and his legal situation.
“I looked at the [political field], saw what people said about the behavior of those in the bloc close to my stances, and reached the conclusion that this is not where I want to be in the near future, not with those norms of behavior,” he said.
Olmert explained that if he would return to politics, it would be to form a bloc that would “change Israeli policy and leadership,” but that the behavior and atmosphere in the Center-Left were negative and “filled with hatred.”
The former prime minister also blamed State Attorney Moshe Lador for “personally persecuting” him.
“Just hours after the Central Elections Committee said there is no reason for me not to run, he [Lador] submitted an appeal [against Olmert’s acquittals in the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs and his sentence of probation and a fine for his conviction for breach of trust in the Investment Center Affair],” Olmert pointed out. “This is an obvious attempt to influence the political process by a man with a clear conflict of interest.”
According to Olmert, the only politician with whom he discussed a run was Tzipi Livni, who expressed willingness to be No. 2 on a list he led.
Olmert also said that Livni told him his legal situation would not influence her decision whether to run with him or not.
However, he threw his support behind Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz.
“We’ll let the voters decide [if Livni is worthy of being prime minister]. If it was between her and [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu], I’d definitely pick her, but Mofaz is definitely worthy.
He is a serious public figure and someone who courageously stood at the head of Israel’s security,” Olmert said.
The former prime minister also touted Mofaz as someone who successfully fought terrorism in Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.
Mofaz was IDF chief of staff from 1998 to 2002, including during Defensive Shield, and defense minister from 2002 to 2006.
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As for his legal troubles, Olmert said he received no personal benefit and the courts were “unable to prove that decisions [he] made were wrong.”
When the former prime minister was asked about his now-famous quote that “there were no envelopes of money,” even though the courts said there were, Olmert explained that the envelopes of money were for political donations and not personal use.
“The court completely acquitted me of this matter,” he said.
The trial regarding the Holyland Affair is pending.
Olmert also referred to reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel changed her country’s vote in the General Assembly on upgrading the Palestinians’ status at the UN on November 29 after hearing him tell CNN that there was no reason to vote against the Palestinian Authority receiving the status of a nonmember observer state. Germany abstained in the vote.
“It’s utter foolishness, but I take it as a big compliment from the government to think that I have such an influence,” Olmert said.
“There is great discomfort from the government’s behavior on this issue,” he continued.
“Netanyahu is isolating Israel and we are paying a heavy price.”
Responding to criticism that it was inappropriate for him to disparage Netanyahu abroad, Olmert said it was important for him to express his opinion against policies he thinks were harming Israel internationally, but that he also showed respect for the prime minister.