Following the Attorney General's decision to open a criminal investigation against PM Olmert, calls are piling up for Olmert to step down.
"In no other normal country does a Prime Minister continue in office while under criminal investigations," stated MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP). "Instead of dealing with all sorts of gestures to the Palestinians and freeing terrorists, Olmert should wish the citizens of Israel a happy new year and suspend himself immediately."
On Monday, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered a police investigation into the incident known as the Cremeiux Street apartment affair. A separate police investigation has already been ongoing for some eight months regarding suspicions that Olmert, when serving as Trade Minister, acted on behalf of two friends during the privatization process of Bank Leumi. These two investigations are in addition to two other sets of criminal allegations against Olmert, upon which Mazuz is set to hand down his decision soon.
Israel's Basic Law: The Government states that a criminal investigation against the Prime Minister may be initiated only with the Attorney General's approval.
Discount for Zoning Rule Relaxations?
The current suspicions against Olmert concern his purchase of a garden apartment in a refurbished building in a posh Jerusalem neighborhood, off Emek Refaim St. He reportedly bought the apartment in October 2004 for some $1.2 to 1.3 million, when the true value at the time was between $1.6 and $1.8 million.
In exchange, it is alleged that Olmert used his connections in the Jerusalem Municipality to obtain special zoning permits for the same building project that significantly increased its value. Olmert served as Mayor of Jerusalem for a decade before becoming Trade Minister.
The journalist who broke the story over a year ago, Yoav Yitzchak, passed his information on to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, who then recommended that the Attorney General begin an investigation.
Legal experts say that Olmert is under no legal obligation to resign or suspend himself.
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) called upon the police to expedite its investigation: "The police must complete the investigation process with all due speed, so that Ehud Olmert, the most corrupt Prime Minister Israel has ever had, will find himself where he deserves - on trial - and not spend his time gambling on the future of the State of Israel... The police must hurry and not allow the Prime Minister to evade judgment using his usual tricks."
MK Gideon Saar, the Likud's Knesset faction head, said, "The decision by the Attorney General to investigate Olmert is a slap in the face at the de-legitimization campaign that Olmert waged against State Comptroller Lindenstrauss and the law enforcement authorities. This is already the second time that the Attorney General has accepted the State Comptroller's recommendation to open a criminal investigation against Olmert. This shows that the Comptroller's research was to the point and well-founded."
The Ometz movement (Citizens for Good Government) congratulated Mazuz for his decision and called upon Olmert to resign. The organization released a statement calling upon Olmert to "cooperate with the police, and not use his usual stalling tactics."
The Land of Israel Legal Forum similarly said that the investigations against the Prime Minister do not allow him to function as Prime Minister. The Forum's director, Nechi Ayal, called on Olmert to seriously consider suspending himself until the conclusion of the investigations.
Professors for a Strong Israel issued a strong statement: "While Ehud Olmert continues to support the enemy and Holocaust-denier Abu Mazen [PA chief Mahmoud Abbas], and weave plans to give him the heart of our land, the ring of investigations around him is getting slowly tighter. Once again we see, "the deeper the planned uprooting [of Jews from Israel], the deeper the investigations!... He has no mandate to uproot Jews and give our homeland away; how much more so must he resign after having failed at his senior public positions."