Roni Bar-On, one of the closest colleagues of disgraced former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, said Tuesday night that “Olmert will not go to jail” and will, rather, be exonerated by the Supreme Court when his appeal is heard.
Bar-On, a former finance minister who moved with Olmert from the Likud party to Kadima, was speaking on Channel 2 news hours after Olmert was sentenced to six years in jail by the Tel Aviv District Court for taking bribes in the Holyland real estate scandal — becoming the first prime minister in Israeli history to be handed a jail term.
Bar-On said he had spoken with Olmert after the sentence was passed, and that the former prime minister was “stunned” by the sentence, just as he had been stunned by his conviction six weeks ago, since Olmert, said Bar-On, remains adamant that he was “convicted of something he didn’t do.”
Bar-On, who himself was engulfed in scandal and forced to step down as attorney-general in 1997 amid allegations that he had been appointed to the post for impure reasons, in the so-called Bar-On-Hebron affair, castigated the judge in the Holyland case, David Rozen, and especially Rozen’s description of Olmert as a “traitor” for his corrupt behavior.
“Who are you calling a traitor?” Bar-On asked bitterly, insisting that Olmert had served the state of Israel effectively and vitally as prime minister, making a series of crucial decisions in the diplomatic, economic and social fields.
He said he personally did not believe Olmert would wind up in jail, and that neither did Olmert foresee any such possibility, even after sentence was passed Tuesday. Other unnamed friends of Olmert were quoted in the same news broadcast as saying the former prime minister remained convinced that the sentence would not be implemented because he would prevail in his appeal to the Supreme Court.