Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday began a 19-month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice, defiantly proclaiming his innocence in a farewell video as he became the first Israeli premier to be placed behind bars, the AP reports. His imprisonment capped a stunning fall from grace that ended Israel's last serious round of peace efforts with the Palestinians and ushered in the era of Benjamin Netanyahu, a hardliner widely criticized in the region and around the world. Olmert checked into the Maasiyahu prison in central Israel early Monday, hours after releasing the three and a half-minute video. It shows a sullen and weary-looking Olmert alluding to his peace efforts with the Palestinians, expressing "pride and satisfaction" with his political career and acknowledging he made mistakes.
"You can imagine how this change is painful and strange for me, for my family, my loved ones and supporters," he says. "It is important for me to say again, as I said inside the court and outside it, that I absolutely reject outright all the corruption allegations against me." Olmert is being held in "Wing 10," a special unit known as the VIP section because it houses people who cannot be held with the general prison population for security reasons. Olmert, 70—who has said he made unprecedented concessions to the Palestinians as PM—was convicted in March 2014 in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a controversial real-estate project in Jerusalem. The charges pertained to a period when he was mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister, years before he became prime minister in 2006.