Cheerful Olmert dines out in Tel Aviv: Nothing is over until it’s over
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Cheerful Olmert dines out in Tel Aviv: Nothing is over until it’s over

Spotted at fancy restaurant weeks before jail term begins, ex-PM insists he’s not fazed at prospect of doing time, says ‘I’m not spoiled’

Ehud Olmert dines in Tel Aviv, January 2016 )Channel 10 screenshot)
Ehud Olmert dines in Tel Aviv, January 2016 )Channel 10 screenshot)

With the clock ticking down to the start of his 18-month jail sentence for corruption next month, former prime minister Ehud Olmert was spotted dining at a high-end Tel Aviv restaurant, where he told a Channel 10 reporter that he was not afraid of the less appealing dining options awaiting him.

“I’m not spoiled,” he said in the clip broadcast Wednesday, but also emphasized how much he enjoys the food in Tel Aviv.

Olmert hinted that he could yet pursue further legal action to combat the corruption convictions against him. Asked if the appeals process had run its course, following a Supreme Court appeal decision that cut his sentence for bribery in the Holy Land real estate corruption case last month from 6 years to 18 months, he said cheerfully: “Nothing is over until it’s over.” He refused to elaborate, however.

The former leader is set to begin his prison sentence at Ma’asiyahu Prison near Tel Aviv on February 15.

The Ma'asiyahu Prison complex in Ramle, near Tel Aviv. (Courtesy/Israel Prisons Service)
The Ma’asiyahu Prison complex in Ramle, near Tel Aviv. (Courtesy/Israel Prisons Service)

It is the first time an Israeli prime minister will serve a prison sentence. As a former head of government, and privy to some of the state’s best-kept secrets, the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) determined that Olmert cannot be allowed to come into contact with convicted members of organized crime groups and those who have committed national security crimes. The result: Ward 10, the so-called “VIP wing” at Ma’asiyahu.

Over the past year, the IPS has worked to transform Ward 10 into a separate prison area that does not necessitate contact with other inmates. According to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Olmert will spend his prison term with two cellmates vetted by the IPS to ensure they pose no threat to his security. Six three-person cells make up the entirety of the ward, which has its own bathrooms and showers separate from the main prison.

Olmert won’t joint other prisoners for work, cultural or educational events.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015. (Gil Yohanan/Pool)
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on December 29, 2015. (Gil Yohanan/Pool)

Ward 10 also has its own clubhouse, dining room, meeting rooms for attorney and family visits, and yard.

Olmert’s cell will have a television. He is allowed one newspaper subscription, a DVD player, up to seven books in his cell at any one time, and, perhaps most importantly, bedsheets and a pillow from home. He will be under 24-hour video surveillance.

Olmert was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in March 2014 in a real estate corruption case officials have characterized as the largest in Israel’s history. While it struck down the main bribery conviction for Olmert’s part in the Holyland scandal, the Supreme Court upheld a more minor bribery conviction in the case, reducing the former prime minister’s sentence to 18 months.

The 70-year-old former leader was convicted in 2014 of accepting bribes during his stints as mayor of Jerusalem and as minister of industry and trade, in exchange for helping win municipal approval for the Holyland residential development near the capital’s southwestern Malha neighborhood. Olmert was reported to have had been holding a letter from a key player in the case for the past year asserting that he did not receive the bribery payment at the heart of his conviction, biz bizarrely he did not present it to the appeals court.

Olmert faces an additional eight-month prison sentence in the so-called Talansky affair, which was also delayed until his Holyland appeal options were exhausted. He was found guilty earlier this year of accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman and fundraiser Morris Talansky in exchange for political favors during his decade-long term as mayor of Jerusalem.

Former president Moshe Katsav is serving a seven-year term at the same jail for rape, sexual assault and harassment of a number of female employees while tourism minister and the head of state.

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