Peres: Agreement over 1967 Borders, Only Final Touches Left

Tel Aviv- Israel’s former President Shimon Peres has announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution.

Peres, 93, called in Jaffa for the prompt resumption of the negotiations that have led to an agreement over the borders that existed before the 1967 war.

He said: “The two sides have agreed over the majority of issues and only final touches remain … The current situation is unacceptable; both parties should act to complete the mission, mainly the border issue.”

“The Arab Peace Initiative fits as a solid foundation for these negotiations since it hints to a possibility of achieving regional and comprehensive peace after resolving the Palestinian case,” he said. “Yet, amendments could be made upon the request of Palestinians and Israelis.”

During the inauguration of an institution for technology sciences in Jaffa, Peres said that the world’s nations can no longer endure wars and bloodshed.

He added, “While leaders are busy talking about the past and fighting to occupy territories, new generations who prefer sciences and progress over war and destruction are emerging. These generations are more concentrated on the future rather than the past; hence they call for peace and sciences.”

Peres said that all Israeli prime ministers since 1992 have endorsed the two-state solution. They are: Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.

“Withdrawing from Gaza was a missed chance by Palestinians to transform Gaza into a launching point for an independent Palestinian state,” said Peres as he expressed his confidence in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has proven his sincere intentions to reach a peace agreement.

The former president criticized the media in Israel for not informing the public of the positive updates in the Arab World. “There are 400 million people in the Arab World, 60 percent of them are less than 25 years old. Fifty to sixty thousand of them believe in aggression, terrorism and hatred; however the rest of youths believe in life, sciences and progress.”

“Why does the media focus on the aggressive minority and overlook the majority which calls for peace?” he questioned.

Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert is Thrown Into Prison on Corruption Charges

Ehud Olmert before he entered court last Wednesday where he was sentenced on corruption charges (Reuters)
Ehud Olmert before he entered court last Wednesday where he was sentenced on corruption charges (Reuters)

The former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has begun a 19 month jail sentence after he was convicted of charges relating to receiving several bribes.

He will be placed in a white collar prison and will join the former Israeli president Moshe Katsav who is serving a 7 year prison sentence for sexually assaulting on women who worked with him in various ministries. Other prisoners there include a judge, a deputy mayor, big business men and well known clergymen. The wing in which “he may stay” has a number of former ministers who were convicted of similar charges. However, the level of protection that Olmert will receive will be the highest in the history of the prison service because he was the fomer prime minister of the government and therefore knows many state secrets. It is feared that he will be kidnapped by people who want to find out these secrets. He will also be accompanied by a guard 24 hours a day to prevent him from committing suicide.

Olmert, who is considered one of the most successful and effective prime ministers by Israelis, and was prime minister from 2006 to 2009, will be placed in section 10 of Ma’asiyahu Prison. According to a prison service source, Olmert will be moved to a normal prison where 24,000 prisoners and detainees are held in Israel. He will wave goodbye to the Shabak guards who accompanied him over the years. His luggage will be inspected and he will be subjected to physical inspections after which he will be driven to the Ma’asiyahu Prison where he will spend his 19 month sentence.

The prison service has recently conducted a series of renovations in this section specifically in honour of Olmert; he will have a room for study, a TV and newspapers. He will also be able to receive visitors in the private visitors’ room and meet his lawyer in a private room set up for this purpose. The section will also contain a synagogue, a library and sports equipment to maintain fitness.

Former Israeli PM Olmert sentenced to 6 years for corruption

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) leaves Tel Aviv District Court May 13, 2014. (REUTERS/Jack Guez/Pool)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) leaves Tel Aviv District Court May 13, 2014. (REUTERS/Jack Guez/Pool)
Tel Aviv, Reuters—Israel’s ex-prime minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in jail on Tuesday for taking bribes in a real estate deal, a crime the judge said was akin to treason.

The first criminal conviction of a former Israeli head of government all but ended speculation that Olmert—a centrist credited internationally with working towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians—might return to political life.

He had denied any wrongdoing in the property deal, approved when he served as Jerusalem’s mayor, that led to the construction of the hilltop Holyland apartment towers, a hulking stone complex widely seen as one of the city’s worst eyesores.

“A public servant who takes bribes is akin to a traitor,” said Judge David Rozen in the Tel Aviv District Court, as he handed down a six-year prison term sought by prosecutors and fined Olmert 1 million shekels (289,500 US dollars).

Rozen found Olmert guilty on March 31 of two bribery charges, saying the former prime minister had accepted 500,000 shekels from developers of the Holyland project and 60,000 shekels in a separate real estate deal.

Olmert, the judge said, devoted most of his time to “praise-worthy” public service—but “also lined his own pockets”.
“The accused served as the prime minister of Israel. From this high and honorable post, he reached the position of having been convicted of the most despicable and grave crimes,” Rozen said.

Rozen ordered Olmert, 68, to report to prison on September 1, effectively giving his lawyers time to take the case to a higher court and request that he remain free until it rules.

Known as one of the country’s most gregarious politicians, Olmert sat largely stony-faced during the court session, and made no comment afterwards.

“He did not take a bribe. He did not receive a bribe. He sees himself as innocent, and it is with those feelings that he will be going to the Supreme Court to appeal,” Olmert lawyer Eli Zohar told reporters.

Two years ago, Olmert was acquitted of most of the major charges brought against him in separate cases involving his links to a US businessman.

Those corruption allegations forced Olmert’s resignation as prime minister in 2008, and his acquittal had appeared to position him for a possible political comeback.

Olmert has made several criticisms of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies toward the Palestinians, fuelling talk about his future political ambitions.

But the judge said Olmert’s crimes entailed “moral turpitude”, which under Israeli law would preclude him from running for public office for seven years after finishing his jail term.

A lawyer by profession, Olmert began his political career in the 1970s as a lawmaker who targeted organised crime in Israel.

He was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and prime minister from 2006 to 2009, staying in office in a caretaker capacity until after an election that brought right-winger Netanyahu to power.

As Israel’s leader, Olmert waged war against militants in Lebanon in 2006 and the Gaza Strip in 2008.

He claimed significant progress in talks with the Palestinians aimed at securing a final peace deal, offering an Israeli withdrawal from much of the occupied West Bank. But no agreement was reached.

After a three-year break, US-brokered negotiations resumed in July, but they were frozen last month by Netanyahu after President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas, an Islamist group that advocates Israel’s destruction.

Palestinians blamed Netanyahu for the collapse, citing Israeli settlement-building and his failure to carry out a pledged prisoner release.

Olmert was among 13 defendants in the Holyland case. Sentences handed down on Tuesday against six of the other accused ranged from three to seven years.

In 2010, a former Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, was convicted on rape charges. He is serving a seven-year sentence.