Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted today of unlawfully accepting money from a US supporter in a retrial on corruption charges, the latest chapter in the downfall of a man who only years earlier hoped to lead the country to a historic peace agreement with the Palestinians. The conviction could land Olmert five years in prison, in addition to a six-year prison sentence he received last year in a separate bribery conviction, all but ensuring the former premier won't return to politics for many years to come. "His behavior constitutes a breach of trust which harms the public, harms morality, and harms the public's trust," prosecutor Uri Korev said following the verdict.
The conviction stoked anger in Israel. "I want Ehud Olmert to apologize to the people of Israel," said columnist and former Olmert confidant Dan Margalit on Israel Radio. A panel of judges at the Jerusalem District Court ruled that Olmert had accepted $153,950 from US businessman Morris Talansky when he was a Cabinet minister, with the money kept hidden in a safe by an Olmert aide. Olmert's lawyers said they would likely appeal the ruling. A sentencing hearing is slated to take place in May. "It's a very, very serious task that the court is going to face, to punish a (former) prime minister for a crime after the court knows he's been convicted with bribery," says a legal expert.