The night before being cleared of two criminal charges, and convicted of a third, former prime minister Ehud Olmert hinted at a return to politics, telling close associates that he was the only viable centrist candidate.
“I will return to political life and run for prime minister,” Olmert told associates Monday night, hours before the District Court of Jerusalem handed down its verdict, Haaretz reported Thursday.
On Tuesday, Olmert was convicted of breach of trust in a conflict of interest case, but found not guilty on charges of double billing groups for trips abroad and illegal money taking. He still faces charges in an ongoing trial for alleged bribe-taking involving the Holyland real estate project.
Before being forced out of office in 2009 by the indictments, Olmert served as prime minister under the banner of the centrist Kadima party.
The party, currently led by Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, has lost much of its support, and will likely face challenges from journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid and Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich, both of whom also claim to represent the center or slightly left-of-center.
Olmert rejected the idea that any of the three of them could lead.
“Not Shaul Mofaz, not Yair Lapid and not Shelly Yachimovich,” he reportedly said.
The former prime minister did say he thought Lapid, a friend, should run for office under Olmert’s wing and not under his own party.
“Yair will step down and come with me,” he said.
Lapid, who launched his campaign in April when it looked like early elections would be called, has reportedly considered teaming with Olmert, according to Haaretz.
Lapid’s and Olmert’s offices declined to comment on the report.
Olmert also reportedly guessed the gist of the verdict, telling friends he believed he would be convicted only on the minor charge and acquitted on the others.