Gantz and Olmert in contact during coalition talks – report
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Gantz and Olmert in contact during coalition talks – report

Former PM, who served 16 months for accepting bribes and obstructing justice, said to be advising Blue and White leader

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks at a conference of business organizations, in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2019 (Ben Dori/Flash90)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks at a conference of business organizations, in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2019 (Ben Dori/Flash90)

Disgraced former prime minister Ehud Olmert is dispensing advice to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz as the latter continues negotiations for a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to a report by Channel 12 news, Olmert and Gantz have “maintained a friendly connection” amid efforts to solve the political deadlock in the wake of last week’s national elections.

Gantz’s Blue and White party’s negotiation team is headed up by Yoram Turbowicz, a former aide to Olmert.

According to figures uploaded to the State Comptroller’s website in February ahead of the first round of elections this year, two Israeli businessmen with links to Olmert put up loan guarantees to back the political run by Gantz’s Israel Resilience party, which later became part of the Blue and White party.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on September 23, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO )

In a further twist, the attorney who prosecuted Olmert said earlier this month that Netanyahu requested he represent him at an upcoming hearing with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit over pending corruption indictments.

“I was asked for assistance. At this stage, I’m not going to be providing any help,” Uri Korb said, without saying when the request was made and without ruling out taking the job.

Olmert, who served as prime minister between 2006 and 2009, was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in 2014 in the Holyland real estate corruption case, one of the largest graft cases in Israel’s history.

He was released from Ma’asiyahu Prison in July 2017 after serving 16 months of a 27-month sentence for accepting bribes and obstructing justice.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert leaves Ramle’s Ma’asiyahu prison on July 2, 2017, following his release. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

President Reuven Rivlin is expected to task Netanyahu with forming the next coalition unless there is progress in unity talks with Gantz, with the president possibly making a decision by Wednesday evening, Hebrew-language media reported.

Rivlin, Netanyahu, and Gantz are scheduled to meet at the President’s Residence on Wednesday for dinner.

The president has encouraged the leaders of the two largest parties to form a unity government, but an agreement over who would lead such a coalition remains elusive.

In the wake of the elections, Netanyahu received 55 recommendations to be prime minister from right-wing and religious parties, while Gantz got 54. Yisrael Beytenu and the Balad faction of the Joint List didn’t recommend any candidate.

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