Olmert on justice system: 'In my case they got it wrong'

Ex-PM Olmert, who was jailed for graft, says ‘thief’ Netanyahu to face same fate

In series of interviews, disgraced former leader calls successor ‘a mafia boss surrounded by his henchmen,’ says Likud leader’s ‘crazy’ family needs ‘therapy’

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks at a briefing at UN headquarters in New York with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on February 11, 2020. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks at a briefing at UN headquarters in New York with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on February 11, 2020. (Bryan R. Smith/AFP)

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who spent 16 months in prison after being convicted of corruption offenses, said Monday that he believed his successor Benjamin Netanyahu would meet a similar fate at the end of his own graft trial, which began Sunday.

Olmert, who served as premier in 2006-2009 and was convicted of bribery and other crimes in several cases, lambasted Netanyahu repeatedly in a series of media interviews Sunday and Monday.

“Netanyahu is a criminal, a scoundrel, a thief. I definitely see him being sent to prison and staying there for quite a few years,” he told Army Radio on Monday.

He railed against the premier and his family, saying: “I wish him to take his wife [Sara] and his son [Yair] and his whole crazy family to a place where they will receive adequate therapy.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a memorial service marking 21 years since the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on November 13, 2016. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

In a separate interview Monday with the Ynet website, Olmert accused Netanyahu of laying the groundwork for the murder of law enforcement officials during a speech he gave before entering the hearing, likening his efforts to those that preceded the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by a Jewish right-wing extremist.

“This is the atmosphere that ends in tragedy, that’s how Bibi did it with Rabin,” he charged, referring to the prime minister by his nickname. “Bibi wasn’t an accomplice in Rabin’s murder, but he created an atmosphere that inevitably led to the option that someone would murder the prime minister. Today he is leading [Israel] to the same atmosphere which could end in tragedy.”

In both interviews, Olmert likened Netanyahu to Don Corleone in Francis Ford Coppolla’s “The Godfather,” and the group of ministers who stood behind him during his pretrial speech to members of his “mafia.”

“A crime boss surrounded by his henchmen,” he charged. “What happened yesterday was a gang of criminals going wild, headed by the Israeli prime minister. The more a person feels guilty, the more they will threaten.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Ehud Olmert in 2009 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Ehud Olmert in 2009. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Before entering the Jerusalem District Court hearing Sunday, Netanyahu gave a lengthy speech lambasting the criminal charges against him as “fabricated” and claiming that the justice system was trying to oust him for political reasons.

Netanyahu ripped into police and prosecutors as he became the first Israeli premier to stand trial on criminal charges while in office.

Flanked by ministers and lawmakers from his Likud party, Netanyahu declared that all his right-wing supporters were on trial along with him.

“Elements in the police and State Attorney’s Office banded together with left-wing journalists… to fabricate baseless cases against me,” he charged. “The goal is to oust a strong right-wing prime minister and to banish the right-wing camp from leadership of the country for many years.”

Olmert, who similarly continues to insist publicly on his innocence — although he stepped down before he was indicted — was asked in the interviews what the difference was between his case and Netanyahu’s.

“I didn’t claim the prosecution and police had been politically motivated,” he answered. “I argued that the one who pursued me for political reasons had been [then-opposition leader] Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu — via private investigators and large sums of money donated by far-right American Jews — had various systems scrutinize every detail of my life to get information that was then handed to the state comptroller and the attorney general to investigate me,” he said.

In his memoirs published in 2018, Olmert accused “right-wing extremist forces,” backed by unnamed Jewish American billionaires, of being in cahoots with the Israeli left-leaning legal system to topple his government, though he did not explicitly mention Netanyahu. He also accused legal officials and police of being politically motivated.

Asked in a Channel 13 interview Sunday whether he trusted the justice system, Olmert said he did, but added that “in my case it got it wrong.”

In addition to Netanyahu, the other defendants in the three cases against him were also at Sunday’s opening hearing: Arnon Mozes, publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper; Shaul Elovitch, controlling shareholder of the Bezeq telecommunications company; and Elovitch’s wife, Iris Elovitch.

Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in all three cases, as well as bribery in one of them.

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