Days after Ehud Olmert was convicted of bribery, the former prime minister was one of a group of leaders making headlines again on Friday — as the subject of a portrait by US president-turned-artist George W. Bush.
Bush told NBC Friday he had discovered painting as his new passion to fill the void in his life after he left the White House.
In an interview on the “Today” show, Bush told his daughter, Jenna Bush Hager, “I paint a lot because, as you know, I’m a driven person.”
The interview highlighted his portraits of world leaders, which he displays at his library in Texas.
One is of a grim-looking President Vladimir Putin. Bush says, “I got to know him very well. It became more intense as time went on.” He didn’t comment on Russia’s annexation of the Crimea Peninsula, but did say, “Vladimir is a person who in many ways viewed America as an enemy. I tried, of course, to dispel him of that notion.”
The former president, who stressed a unifying theme of friendship in his choice of subjects, displays his Olmert portrait flanked by two photographs of the pair in easy conversation — one in Israel, and one at the White House.
The final years of Bush’s two-term presidency coincided with Olmert’s 2006-9 prime ministership, and the failed effort to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. Olmert frequently referred to Bush as a very supportive president for Israel, one of few who empathized with Israel’s security concerns about a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.
The Tel Aviv District Court on Monday morning convicted Olmert, along with nine other former senior officials and businessmen, of taking and giving bribes in the development of the massive Holyland construction project promoted while Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem.