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'Police Waiting to Arrest Olmert'

The noose appears to be tightening around former PM Olmert’s neck. Police will be at the airport to arrest him when he returns, sources tell TIME.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 4/11/2010, 2:31 AM / Last Update: 4/11/2010, 6:57 AM

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Police will be at the airport to arrest former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert if and when he returns to Israel, sources told TIME magazine. On Saturday, he categorically denied any involvement with the latest and perhaps largest political scandal, centering on Olmert’s former legal aide and friend Uri Messer.

Messer is one of several political, legal and financial leaders who have been charged with bribery in the huge Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem. Several steps in its approval coincided with Olmert’s tenure as mayor of the capital and when he was Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor in the Sharon government in 2006. The land for the apartment project had been zoned for a hotel.

The former prime minister already faces three separate charges involving double-billing and receiving cash in return for favors. Last year, he abruptly left the country shortly before being indicted, telling the court that he needed emergency surgery in the United States for prostate cancer.

The Holyland case involves a yet unnamed suspect, possibly Olmert.

In the meantime, Olmert’s lawyers are using the Holyland bribe case as a reason to ask for another delay in his trial, arguing that its timing will cause confusion with the latest probe, considered the most serious corruption in the history of Israel.

Despite Olmert’s legal problems, he continues to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars as a business consultant and speaker, receiving approximately $50,000 for each appearance.

Barring total exoneration of all blame in the outstanding criminal charges, it seems his political career has all but ended. "I don't see any chance of him coming back into politics," according to Israeli television commentator Raviv Drucker.

TIME magazine reports this week, “Olmert has already come to symbolize a generation of politicians who eschewed the abstemious ways of Israel's founding leaders and enriched themselves at a time of unprecedented security and prosperity, failing to address the deeper problems facing the country."