Olmert admits to obstruction of justice in plea deal


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted to obstruction of justice charges in a plea deal, the first time he has admitted to wrongdoing.

Olmert was convicted in Jerusalem Magistrates Court on Monday and sentenced to six months in prison and a $13,000 fine. The prison sentence is to be served concurrently with his 18-month prison sentence in the Holyland corruption scandal.

The court will finalize the sentence on Feb. 10.

In tapes provided by Olmert’s former aide Shula Zaken, who turned state’s witness, Olmert is heard asking Zaken not to testify against him and offering to pay her legal expenses.

The Holyland affair, what is being called the largest corruption scandal in Israel, involved the payment of bribes to government officials by the developers of a luxury high-rise apartment complex in Jerusalem.

In May, Olmert was sentenced to eight months in prison after being convicted of accepting cash-filled envelopes from an American-Jewish businessman, Morris Talansky, and using it for personal and not political expenses. The case is under appeal to the Supreme Court.

Olmert is the first Israeli prime minister to be sentenced to jail time. He is scheduled to enter prison on Feb. 15.

Olmert resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted in multiple corruption scandals.

Ehud Olmert has prison term cut in bribery conviction


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had his prison term cut to 18 months from six years for his part in the Holyland corruption case.

The Supreme Court, as part of Olmert’s appeal during a hearing Tuesday morning, cut the term ordered by the Tel Aviv District Court in May 2014.

Olmert is the first Israeli prime minister to be sentenced to jail time. He is scheduled to enter prison on Feb. 15.

The Holyland affair, what is being called the largest corruption scandal in Israel, involved the payment of bribes to government officials by the developers of a luxury high-rise apartment complex in Jerusalem.

The justices acquitted Olmert of receiving the larger of the two bribes, about $130,000, but upheld his conviction for accepting a bribe of about $15,400.

In a statement after the verdict, Olmert maintained that he had never accepted any bribes, but said he respected the decision of the Supreme Court justices. He also acknowledged how difficult the case has been on his family.

Olmert resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted in multiple corruption scandals.

In May, Olmert was sentenced to eight months in prison after being convicted for accepting cash-filled envelopes from an American-Jewish businessman, Morris Talansky, and using it for personal and not political expenses. The case is under appeal to the Supreme Court.

Also at Tuesday’s hearing, the appeal of former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, Olmert’s successor who had been sentenced to six years in prison for directing bribe money to a Jerusalem charity, was rejected, but his prison sentence was modified to six months of community service due to his ill health.

The court also partially accepted the appeals of four others found guilty in the case and reduced their prison sentences, but let stand the sentences of two others.

The verdict on Ehud Olmert


Now we know one thing for sure: Ehud Olmert will never again be prime minister of Israel.

Olmert, who led Israel’s government from 2006 to 2009, was convicted this morning of taking bribes in the Holyland affair, a scandal involving the illegal construction of high-rise apartments in Jerusalem when Olmert was the city’s mayor more than a decade ago.

It was a soap opera of a case, but what matters now is the bottom line: Olmert, 68, faces significant jail time — not to mention a ban from politics.

[How Israel gained and lost from Olmert’s gilty verdict]

Olmert resigned his premiership upon facing a corruption indictment. As recently as last year, though, pundits and advisers floated his name as Israel’s next great centrist hope.

He was the man who could lead an assertive government into a peace deal with the Palestinians, they said, as long as his corruption charges went away. Except they didn’t go away.

If today’s judgment has demolished Olmert’s personal reputation, his political legacy was already in tatters. His once-mighty centrist Kadima party has hit its nadir. He’s going to prison, and the party he once led has two seats in the Knesset, likely its last hurrah.

Kadima was founded by Ariel Sharon, the general-turned-politician, and the party’s appeal was in the premise that Israel could take full control of its destiny independent of its adversaries. The state could unilaterally set its borders, move its population and bomb its enemies as it saw fit — rewriting the rules to secure Israel’s strategic needs.

That was the defining motif of Sharon’s career — from the Sinai to Lebanon to the Gaza Disengagement. And it’s the approach Olmert adopted when he took the reins of Kadima — Hebrew for “onward” — after Sharon’s 2006 stroke.

But the approach has yielded mixed results: Wars in Lebanon and Gaza left Israel with inconclusive victories and fallout abroad. Olmert’s “Consolidation Plan,” a unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, never got off the ground. And Israel’s next government was led not by Kadima but by the Likud of Benjamin Netanyahu.

With Holyland, it seems, Olmert tried to rewrite the rulebook to suit his personal needs, disregarding building regulations in Jerusalem for the right price. But that didn’t work out very well for him.

Olmert indicted in Holyland scandal


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been indicted on bribery charges in one of Israel’s largest corruption scandals.

The indictment filed Thursday accuses Olmert of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during the construction of the Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem when he was mayor of Jerusalem and then trade minister.

Seventeen other people were also indicted in the case, including Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken and former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski.

Olmert is currently on trial in three other cases: for allegedly paying for family vacations by double billing Jewish organizations through the Rishon Tours travel agency; for allegedly accepting envelopes full of cash from American businessman Morris Talansky; and for allegedly granting personal favors to attorney Uri Messer when he served as trade minister in the Investment Center case.

The ex-Israeli leader is charged with fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records and tax evasion. He has pleaded not guilty on all charges.

Olmert is the first former Israeli prime minister to stand trial. He resigned as prime minister in September 2008 after police investigators recommended that he be indicted.

Police recommend indicting Olmert over Holyland


Israeli police have recommended that prosecutors indict Ehud Olmert in a real estate scandal.

The police investigations unit turned over its file on the Holyland apartment project scandal to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador on Monday along. The police recommendation has no formal bearing.

Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, is suspected of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during the construction of the Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem when he was mayor of Jerusalem and then trade minister. Olmert is currently on trial in other corruption scandals.

The police also recommended charging several other former officials on charges ranging from bribery and fraud to tax offenses, including Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken, former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, and former Israel Land Administration head Yaakov Efrati.

The Holyland project started while Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, and continued under his successor, Lupolianski, who served until 2008.

Israeli Hotels Highlight Local Terrain, International Trends


Despite the fact that Israel has a perceived “image problem” in the world of global opinion, a growing number of Israeli hotel tourism executives have discovered that luring American Jewish and Christian tourists to the Holy Land has more to do with content and deals than politics.

Recently released statistics from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism show a distinct upward spike in the number of foreign tourists flocking to the Jewish state in 2010. In Europe, where Israel is hammered on a daily basis in the local media, the number of low-cost carriers flying into Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport has actually doubled during the past year.

“Yes, American Jewish tourists are finally coming back to Israel in significant numbers, but people are more price conscious than they used to be, which is not surprising after what happened to the economy in America last year,” said Bruno de Schuyter, general manager of the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. “The Internet has also changed booking patterns, as consumers will tend to check 10 different hotels for pricing and deals before they finally book a reservation.”

Rafi Beeri, the vice president of marketing and sales for Dan Hotels Israel, one of the country’s largest hotel chains, says that offering promotional plans that rely exclusively on local (Israeli) tourism alone is not a blueprint for success.

“At the current time, the ratio of Israeli tourists versus foreign tourists at most hotels is 50/50,” Beeri said. “Within the Dan Hotel chain, the ratio … is 65 percent foreign versus 35 percent domestic [Israeli].
In addition, 40 percent of our overall foreign tourism business comes from North America, where we invest a substantial amount of time, money and effort to lure Jewish and non-Jewish tourists. Israeli hotel managers realize that it’s no longer good business to rely on Israeli tourists who will fill your hotel on weekends but [let it] remain almost empty during the middle of the week.”

Both de Schuyter and Beeri put a premium on recognizing emerging trends in the American consumer and hotel marketplaces that can be translated for their own hotels.

“On one of my most recent trips to Los Angeles, I visited a local upscale hotel in Beverly Hills, where I saw a variety of concepts that I found fascinating and adapted the model for the Inbal,” de Schuyter said. “One of the concepts that I had adapted for the upcoming summer season is our newly redesigned Splash Pool Bar.

“In addition, we’ve upgraded our health club and spa that offers a very high level of service. Many of our guests are interested in a vacation that includes pampering for both the body and soul,” he said.

So where are the best places to stay during the summer season? The following hotels offer a variety of amenities and experiences for American tourists.

JERUSALEM

Inbal Hotel

The deluxe hotel, which highlights 10 different types of rooms for couples, families and business executives, is offering special summer rates, which includes one child staying for free in a double room. The hotel offers a range of amenities including an outdoor swimming pool and a fully equipped health club. The Executive Lounge on the top floor is designed for private business and social gatherings. The completely refurbished spa and sauna offer a wide variety of soothing body and facial treatments. The posh Sofia bistro and the hotel’s sumptuous dining room menu is helmed by renowned executive chef
Itzik Barak.

inbalhotel.com.

King David Hotel

The upscale landmark facility, which is also the flagship hotel of the Dan Hotel chain, is steeped in the city’s history. The elegant rooms overlook the walls of the Old City. The King David also features an inviting outdoor pool for guests and their children, as well as a tennis court and state-of-the-art fitness center. The dining room offers a bountiful selection of delectable meals for the entire family.

danhotels.com.

prima royale

At one of the city’s most sought-after boutique hotels (only 130-plus rooms), located in the fashionable Talbieh District, each room highlights a quiet elegance that is perfect for young couples and families.
The dining room features top-quality European and Israeli dishes. Business professionals can work in the hotel’s fully equipped business center. The hotel is conveniently located near the Old City and the city’s central shopping district.

prima-hotels-israel.com.

TEL AVIV

Sheraton Tel Aviv Hotel & Towers

Within the past year the fashionable hotel has completely refurbished its interior and exterior, highlighted by a variety of newly remodeled rooms, as well as a new outdoor pool for children that will open by the end of June. The hotel also boasts a new spa and fitness center. The posh Olive Leaf restaurant accentuates the upscale kosher food trend that has become part of the city’s culinary culture and has become a magnet for visiting American tourists.

sheratontelaviv.com.

Dan Tel Aviv Hotel

The city’s first luxury hotel, built in 1952, is still lauded as one of Israel’s finest. It is a mecca for foreign business executives and politicians who wish to be near everything, as well as families from all over
the globe who want to revel in the luxury. The hotel features a variety of rooms for executives, couples and families. There is a large indoor pool, an outdoor pool with a sundeck, and a spa and fitness center. The Dan chain is renowned for its fully supervised Danyland Children’s Club, where youngsters indulge in multimedia games, creative workshops and competitions.

danhotels.com.

Prima Tel Aviv

Suites and family rooms are featured in this metro boutique facility that is located just across the street from the city’s bustling seaside promenade and beach. In fact, all of the rooms boast mesmerizing views of the Mediterranean. The hotel is also close to the city’s trendy Dizengoff Street shopping district and the nearby Port of Tel Aviv (Namal Tel Aviv). The hotel’s Shangri-la restaurant serves up a Thai menu for lunch and dinner.

prima-hotels-israel.com.

NORTHERN ISRAEL

Ruth Rimonim Safed

The only hotel in the legendary town of Tzfat has earned top international ranking for its architectural beauty and personalized service. The rooms highlight a breathtaking view of mystical Mount Meron and the pastoral Galilee region. The hotel promotes itself as a peaceful romantic getaway, where couples can indulge themselves in the beautiful spa and health club. The adjacent Artists Colony is one of the city’s top cultural attractions. The hotel recently added a fully stocked wine cellar, where seminars and other special events can be held in a unique setting.

rimonim.com.

EILAT

Dan Eilat

Dubbed as a “self-contained vacation paradise” that overlooks the Red Sea, this is also one of the most popular hotels among upscale Israeli tourists with children. The hotel highlights large outdoor blue pools with cascading waterfalls. The ample guest rooms and suites overlook the pool or the Red Sea. Parents can chill out in the Turkish and Finnish sauna, while the children can play from sunup to sundown in the Danyland Children’s Club. The dining room, known as Food Fair, features an all-you-can-eat buffet. danhotels.com.

Rimonim Eilat

Known for its high standards of service and hospitality, the completely remodeled facility (formerly known as the Neptune) offers a large outdoor pool for adults, a children’s pool and round-the-clock activities for the entire family. The guest rooms overlook the majestic Eilat Bay. As the hotel is located in the center of town, guests can stroll to a variety of seaside attractions, including shopping malls, amusement parks and movie theaters.

rimonim.com.

Olmert questioned in Holyland real estate scandal


Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was questioned in connection with a massive real estate scandal.

Police from the National Unit for Aggravated and International Crime in Lod questioned Olmert for about eight hours on Tuesday as part of the investigation into the Holyland project, which is being described as one of the worst corruption scandals in Israeli history.

Olmert was identified last month by police as the chief suspect in the Holyland scandal, and he voluntarily cut short a planned visit abroad in order to be available for questioning, which did not occur until Tuesday.

He is suspected of accepting nearly hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during the construction of the Holyland apartment project in Jerusalem, built on the site of the former Holyland Hotel, when he served as Jerusalem mayor. Olmert is currently on trial in other corruption scandals.

At least five other officials have been arrested in connection with the case. They include former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, who followed Olmert in the office, and Uri Messer, a former aide to Olmert when he served as Jerusalem mayor.

The officials are accused of paying or accepting bribes in order to rezone the land from commercial for the originally planned hotels to residential for the luxury apartments that were built, as well as receiving or giving other benefits, such as tax breaks, for the project.

Police believe that Olmert received his money through Messer and his former bureau chief Shula Zaken, who also is on trial in another corruption scandal involving Olmert.

The Holyland project started while Olmert served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, and continued with his successor, Lupolianski, who served until 2008.

Holyland suspect asked about bribes to Shas leader, Lieberman


Police asked the main suspect in Israel’s largest-ever real estate scandal if Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef received bribes.

The lawyer for Meir Rabin said Monday that police asked Rabin whether he had given Yosef about $270,000 in donations, as well as bribes to two other lawmakers who served as ministers at the time, Israeli media are reporting.

“This is nonsense that should not be dignified with a response,” Lieberman’s office said.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and his successor as Jerusalem mayor, Uri Lupolianski, have been named in the bribery scandal involving a large residential development on the site of the former Holyland Hotel in Jerusalem.

Rabin is accused of advancing the building project by offering bribes to senior public figures.

Also Monday, Olmert’s former bureau chief Shula Zaken was taken into custody to be questioned about the Holyland corruption affair when she landed at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport following a long trip abroad. Police are hoping to gain evidence on Olmert’s involvement in the scandal by questioning Zaken.