The State Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday asked the police to launch an investigation into whether jailed former prime minister Ehud Olmert committed a criminal offense by divulging classified information in the memoirs he is writing.
The move comes after police raided the offices of the Yedioth Books publishing house in the central town of Rishon Lezion earlier in the day in a search for classified material that may have been provided by Olmert.
The state also requested that Olmert’s Sunday parole board hearing be postponed for a second time, this time until after police complete their investigation. That request was denied by the parole board.
“Olmert has been writing his book while incarcerated,” the state prosecution said in a statement. “Parts of the book deal with sensitive security issues. Recently, an incident took place in which one of Olmert’s lawyers was caught as he left the prison with a chapter of the book… The chapter includes, among other things, secret operational details that were not approved for publication in the past.”
According to a Channel 2 report at that time the lawyer was allegedly carrying two chapters from Olmert’s memoirs which relate to the bombing of a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007.
“Failure to comply strictly with guarding these secrets… leads to a concern that the information may be leaked, which could cause serious damage to state security,” the prosecution said.
Earlier on Thursday, police raided the offices of the Yedioth Books publishing house, which is owned by Yehioth Ahronoth, one of Israel’s largest daily newspapers.
Police also raided the home of Yehuda Yaari, who is editing Olmert’s memoirs on behalf of the publisher.
Olmert is the only person involved in the Syria bombing who didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement about the incident, which foreign reports 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.
On June 1 the State Prosecutor’s Office won 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 was one of eight former officials and businessmen convicted in March 2014 in the Holyland real estate corruption case, which has been characterized as among the largest graft cases in Israel’s history.
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.