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Fmr FM Livni: Olmert “Unfit” for Political Return; “Untarnished” People Should Lead Israel

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni said on Saturday that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was “unfit” to return to political life due to his conviction for corruption and observed that Israel must be led by “untarnished people.”

The Times of Israel reported that Livni made the comments in an interview with Hadashot television news and clarified that Olmert should not return to public life, even if Israeli President Reuven Rivlin were to erase the “moral turpitude” clause from Olmert’s conviction, a designation that prohibits convicts from holding public office.

“He was a prime minister who did good things as well as problematic things, including criminal things,” Livni, who served as foreign minister under Olmert’s government, said. “The debate on the future of the State of Israel must be waged between untarnished people,” she added.

Olmert returned to the public eye last week, after Israel confirmed for the first time on Wednesday that it was responsible for a 2007 air raid against a nuclear reactor in eastern Syria. At the time, Olmert served as prime minister.

On Friday, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to resign, if he is indicted over corruption charges. “If a trial begins against the prime minister, he will no longer be able to fulfill his duties,” the minister said, adding that “He will get up and leave or the other parties will go away.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also raised doubts last month over Netanyahu’s ability to serve as prime minister in the event of an indictment, referencing Netanyahu’s calls to oust Olmert at the time of his corruption trail. “In the past, many senior politicians expressed their views clearly on what happens when there is an indictment, and my opinion was certainly influenced by them,” Rivlin stated.

Meanwhile, former IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General (Res.) Benny Gantz, who is considering a run for the Knesset, said last week that Netanyahu was innocent until proven guilty, a central pillar of any law-based society. “If Netanyahu is elected again and there is no criminal charge, he deserves to be prime minister,” Gantz stated.

Netanyahu is currently under several police investigations revolving around bribery allegations. The prime minister has rejected any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a “witch-hunt.”

Olmert is not the first politician to be convicted of corruption in Israel, and thus his case continues to highlight the strong judiciary and rule of law in Israel.

Avraham Hirchson, a former finance minister, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2009 for stealing $500,000 from the National Labor Federation. Former Shas leader Aryeh Deri was convicted of taking $155,000 in bribes while serving as interior minister and was given a three-year jail sentence in 2000. Another prominent Shas MK, Shlomo Benizri, was found guilty of accepting bribes and was sentenced to 18 months in jail in 2008.

An additional example of a corruption investigation in the highest political ranks in Israel is that of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. On December 2005, the police announced that they had found evidence of a $3 million bribe paid to Sharon’s sons. There was reportedly no evidence linking Sharon himself to the illegal payments. Shortly after the announcement, Sharon suffered a stroke from which he never recovered.

[Photo: Tzipi Livni /  YouTube]