Police on Thursday raided the offices of the Yedioth Books publishing house in Rishon Lezion in a search for classified material that may have been provided by jailed former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
The publisher is owned by Yehioth Ahronoth, Israel’s highest-circulation daily newspaper.
Police also raided the home of Yehuda Yaari, who is editing Olmert’s memoirs on behalf of the publisher.
On May 18, one of Olmert’s attorneys was caught by prison officers with classified material belonging to the former prime minister after a visit to his jail cell. During a search of the cell, security officers found additional classified documents.
Consequently, law enforcement officials decided to open a preliminary probe into Olmert. The findings were to be presented to police and the Shin Bet security service and a decision would then be taken on whether to open a criminal investigation into Olmert, Channel 2 reported at the time.
The lawyer was allegedly carrying two chapters from Olmert’s memoirs, which he is writing while incarcerated. According to the report the chapters relate to the bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007.
Olmert is the only person involved who didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement about the bombing, which foreign reports have attributed to Israel, because he was prime minister at the time.
Following the discovery of the documents, Olmert reportedly lost some prison privileges including an upcoming furlough and access to the public phone.
During his most recent furlough, Olmert met with the chief censor of the IDF. Sources close to the former prime minister say that the two chapters were approved by the state censor two months ago, and that there is therefore no basis for a criminal investigation.
Israel never officially confirmed that it was responsible for the attack on the reactor in the Deir Ezzor region of Syria, and Israeli media was banned from reporting on an Israeli connection. However, shortly before the raid Olmert seemed to imply Israel was behind it, saying, “The security services and Israeli defense forces are demonstrating unusual courage. We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.”
On June 1 the State Prosecutor’s Office requested the postponement of a hearing scheduled for the following week into shortening the former premier’s sentence. The request came because the State Attorney’s Office sought to submit classified materials to the parole board, requiring the committee members to obtain an appropriate security clearance.
The former prime minister, who is serving a 27-month sentence for various corruption convictions, has been writing a memoir in his cell. Since, as prime minister, he was privy to the Jewish state’s most closely guarded secrets, prison authorities have required he transfer all written materials to censors before handing them over to his publisher.
Olmert has insisted he was not trying to skirt any laws.
“I have never been told that it is forbidden to transfer written material,” he said, according to Channel 2 news. “The lawyers are involved with my writing, and go over all the material.”
Olmert began serving his sentence at Ma’asiyahu Prison in Ramle in February 2016, and is now seeking early release. The law allows authorities to reduce sentences by a third for good behavior.