Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Former Israeli PM Olmert sentenced to six years in jail for corruption

Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Tel Aviv District Court in Israel, Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Tel Aviv District Court in Israel, Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel’s ex-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was sentenced to six years in jail on Tuesday for taking bribes in a massive real estate deal, a crime the judge said was akin to treason.

The first criminal conviction of a former Israeli head of government all but ended speculation that Olmert – a centrist credited internationally with working towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians – might return to political life.

He had denied any wrongdoing in the property deal that took place while he was in his previous post of Jerusalem mayor.

“A public servant who takes bribes is akin to a traitor,” said Judge David Rozen of the Tel Aviv District Court.

“(Olmert) is a criminal who devoted most of his time to praise-worthy public service. (But) he also lined his own pockets,” he said in passing sentence.

Rozen ordered Olmert to report to prison on September 1, effectively giving his lawyers time to lodge what they said would be an appeal to the Supreme Court and a request that he remain free until it rules.

Two years ago, the veteran politician was acquitted of most of the major charges brought against him in separate cases involving his links to a U.S. businessman.

Those corruption allegations forced Olmert’s resignation as prime minister in 2008, and his acquittal had appeared to position him for a possible political comeback.

But in the new corruption trial, Rozen found Olmert guilty on March 31 of two bribery charges and said he accepted 500,000 shekels ($144,000) from developers of the Holyland apartment building complex in Jerusalem and 60,000 shekels in a separate real estate project.

On Tuesday, the judge granted the prosecution’s request for a six-year jail term.

NETANYAHU CRITIC

Olmert has made several criticisms of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s policies toward the Palestinians, fuelling talk about his future political ambitions.

But in sentencing Olmert, the judge said his crimes entailed “moral turpitude”, which under Israeli law would preclude him from running for any public office for seven years after finishing his jail term.

A lawyer by profession, Olmert began his political career in the 1970s as a legislator who targeted organized crime in Israel.

He served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003 and as prime minister from 2006 to 2009, staying in office in a caretaker capacity until after an election that brought right-winger Netanyahu to power.

As prime minister, Olmert waged war against militants in Lebanon in 2006 and the Gaza Strip in 2008.

He claimed significant progress in talks with the Palestinians aimed at securing a final peace deal, offering an Israeli withdrawal from much of the occupied West Bank. But no agreement was reached.

After a three-year break, U.S.-brokered negotiations resumed in July, but they were frozen last month by Netanyahu after President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas, an Islamist group that advocates Israel’s destruction.

Palestinians blamed Netanyahu for the collapse, citing Israeli settlement-building and his failure to carry out a pledged prisoner release.

Olmert was among 13 defendants in the Holyland case, which revolved around the construction of a hulking, hilltop housing project widely regarded as Jerusalem’s worst eyesore.

Sentences handed down on Tuesday against six of the other accused ranged from three to seven years.

In 2010, a former Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, was convicted on rape charges. He is serving a seven-year sentence.

 

President George W. Bush exchanges handshakes ...

President George W. Bush exchanges handshakes with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel during their meeting Tuesday, May 23, 2006, in the Oval Office. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Israel fires on 29 ‘terror sites’ after rockets from Gaza hit towns – CNN

(CNN) — Israel responded with heavy fire after five rockets from Gaza landed Wednesday in populated areas of southern Israel, marking “the most substantial attack” in two years against the country, the Israeli military said.

The military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, called the Al-Quds Brigade, claimed responsibility for firing dozens of missiles on what it called “Israeli settlements.”

In response, Israel launched airstrikes on three areas in Gaza — Rafah, Khan Younis and Jabalia — that are believed to belong to Islamic Jihad, according to security sources in Gaza. A Hamas spokesman texted CNN to say they counted six airstrikes, but claimed they were against bases that were empty.

In all, the Israeli military targeted “29 terror sites” in Gaza, the military said on its Twitter page.

“Direct hits were confirmed,” the military tweeted.

“In today’s attack, 41 rockets struck in Israel, five hit populated areas and three were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system,” the military said in another statement. “This is the most substantial rocket attack from the Gaza Strip since Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.”

Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which is the Palestinian movement running Gaza, evacuated their military and civilian institutions on expectation of Israeli reprisals, the security sources in Gaza said.

Israel intercepts ship with weapons headed to Gaza

In the wake of the attack, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman told Israeli army radio that “the position of my party Israel Beitanyu is that we support the full occupation of the whole of Gaza in any possible future action.”

Liberman opposed a response short of full occupation. “I am against a limited operation,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was later asked for his reaction to Liberman’s comments at a joint news conference with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.

“If it is not quiet in southern Israel, it will be very noisy in Gaza,” Netanyahu said in Hebrew.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called upon Israel to stop the “military escalation on the besieged Gaza Strip, considering that this escalation will put the isolated residents in the danger of the war and destruction,” presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said through the official Wafa news agency.

“The Gaza Strip is constantly being targeted by Israeli airstrikes that targeted many areas,” Rudeineh said.

Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV flashed a banner stating: “The occupation bares the full responsibility regarding this wave of aggression and the ongoing escalation.”

Abu Ahmad, spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, said the rocket fire came “after a long series of violations to the truce with the Palestinian resistance since November 2012.”

“This operation, dubbed ‘Breaking the Silence,’ comes as a response to the ongoing and continued Zionist Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza,” Ahmad said.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered a halt to the shipment of goods to Gaza through a crossing on the Gaza-Israel-Egypt border until security assessments are made, the military said in statement.

However, another crossing will be open for humanitarian movements, the military said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the multiple rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and urged maximum restraint by all parties to prevent an escalation of violence and destabilization to the region, a spokesman said.

Israeli Apache helicopters flew over Gaza City on Wednesday after several rockets were reportedly fired from the Palestinian territory at the Israeli town of Sderot, officials said.

The Al-Quds Brigade claimed responsibility on its website for firing a total of 34 rockets and 14 mortar rounds at “Zionist targets.”

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Hamas Official Brags Group Will Blanket Israel With Advanced Missiles in Next War

A Hamas official reportedly told Agence France-Presse (AFP) over the weekend that any future war between Israel and the Iran-backed terror group will see Hamas launching missiles at Israeli civilians far in the country’s north, a boast bound to deepen increasingly open concerns within Israel’s military and political establishments that Hamas is stockpiling an arsenal capable of the sustained saturation bombing of Israeli civilian centers.

The comments were made during a Hamas ceremony in Gaza City for the unveiling of a rocket-statue which features a life size M-75 rocket, whose real life counterpart can reach 75 kilometers into Israel. The M-75 was used to target Tel Aviv and its surroundings as well as the greater Jerusalem area during 2012′s Operation Pillar of Defense.

AFP conveyed other boasts from the ceremony, including one by a masked figure who bragged that “Hamas managed to take the battle to the heart of the Zionist entity (Israel) after developing its rocket system.”

Israel last week intercepted a Gaza-bound arms ship dispatched by Iran and carrying missiles capable of putting roughly five million Israelis under fire. The nature and substance of Hamas’s threats, especially coupled with the Palestinian faction’s ongoing efforts to stockpile advanced missiles, are likely to solidify Israeli skepticism toward calls from some corners of the international community that Jerusalem lift its blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

via Hamas Official Brags Group Will Blanket Israel With Advanced Missiles in Next War – The Tower – The Tower.

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Ansar Jerusalem claims deadly Egypt bombing

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Egypt’s so-called Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bait al-Maqdis in Arabic) declared responsibility on Tuesday for a deadly attack on a security building in the city of Mansoura that killed 14 people and wounded more than 100 others, Egyptian media reported citing a Twitter statement by the group.

Dakahlia Security Directorate was attacked and the operation was carried out successfully thanks be to God and to our Jihadist brothers,” Youm7 news website quoted Ansar Jerusalem’s Twitter statement as saying.

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A car bomb tore through the compound in in one of the deadliest attacks since the army deposed Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July.

Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour has declared three days of mourning.

The army-backed government vowed to fight “black terrorism,” saying the blast an hour after midnight in the city of Mansoura north of Cairo would not derail a political transition plan whose next step is a January referendum on a new constitution, according to Reuters.

The attack prompted a cabinet statement declaring Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist organization,” though a state news agency report did not explicitly accuse the group of staging the attack. Mursi’s group condemned the bombing.

With at least 13  policemen among the dead, the blast underlined the risk of militancy moving to the densely populated Nile Valley from the Sinai Peninsula, where attacks have killed some 200 members of the security forces since Mursi’s downfall.

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“We face an enemy that has no religion or nation,” Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, the survivor of an assassination attempt in Cairo in September, said at the scene of the blast.

The army said a car bomb had been used in what it called a “vile terrorist attack”, while the presidency said such attacks “only increase the state’s determination to uproot terrorism.”

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Police “combat units” would deploy across the country with orders to use live ammunition, state TV reported.

Sacred Shrines Become ‘Ticking Time Bomb’

The supreme leader of the Palestinian Muslims and guardian of Islam’s most sacred shrine in the Old City of Jerusalem has warned of an uprising and regional war if Jews attempt to take greater control of the al Aqsa Mosque complex.

The warning came amid advancing efforts in the Israeli parliament to try to take administrative control of the sacred Islamic site which Jews also lay claim to as it sits on the remains of their Second Temple.

For now “sovereignty” of the Haram al Sharif, as the complex is traditionally known, lies with Jordan.

But several Knesset members, led by deputy speaker Moshe Feiglin, a member of the Likud Party, are pressing for greater access to Jews for prayer on the site and administrative control of it.

“It is the hard core of our identity … those places that represent the basis for our existence here altogether. Should we insist on [access to] these places or not?” Mr Feiglin told Sky News.

“Because if we cannot insist on our legitimacy on our basic rights to pray in the most holiest place for the Jews in the land of Israel –  under Israeli sovereignty in the middle of Jerusalem – then we’re losing our legitimacy not just in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, but everywhere else.”

The Knesset member is a forceful rejectionist of talks with the Palestinians aimed at establishing an independent state on the West Bank and in Gaza.

He believes that Israel is a threat to itself by ceding territory it captured in 1967 and has occupied since then. On the issue of what Jews call the Temple Mount, he is equally unbending.

“I don’t need to prove anything, history says it all. Any honest person who learned a bit of history knows the truth – Jerusalem belongs to the Jews and to the Jews only, that’s a fact. And by the way the Temple Mount never really interested Muslims before the Israelis came back.”

The Mohammed Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, issued a stark warning against any attempts to replace the Muslim administration of the Haram al Shari/Temple Mount in an exclusive interview with Sky News.

“If the Israelis come here it will be more than an intifada,” he said.

What do you mean more than an intifada?

“The whole region will be engulfed by war,” the Grand Mufti insisted.

Such threats are not idle.

In 2000, Ariel Sharon triggered the Second or “al Aqsa” Intifada which led to the deaths of 4,000 people and many more wounded over the next half decade by insisting on his right to visit the shrine.

He did so at a time of heightened tension when 10 years of talks aimed at ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza appeared to Palestinians to be going nowhere – and when they were also frustrated at the ineptitude and corruption of their own leadership.

Today, peace talks are going nowhere. The Palestinians have been letting Jewish settlements chew into their lands on the West Bank. Their leadership remains corrupt and incompetent – and are increasingly being seen as collaborators.

The tinder box that Mr Sharon, then leader of the Israeli opposition, lit in 2000 is just as dry now.

“It’s a huge and dangerous issue – taking the place from Muslims where they believe they have the right to pray is very dangerous,” Grand Mufti Hussein said.

Jews are banned from praying on the holy site by the Israeli police, although the courts have found that they should be able to exercise this right.

They are also forbidden, when they do visit, from removing so much as a leaf or a grain of soil.

Sky News joined a small group who were escorted by an Israeli policeman, who monitored their progress on a pre-set route around the outer edge of the 35-acre complex.

They prayed by talking to themselves as they walked, or by pretending to be in conversations and instead reciting invocations.

They were led by Rabbi Yitzchak Reuven, assistant director of The Temple Institute which is dedicated to restoring the temple to its third incarnation and is collecting the sacred vessels that one day it hopes will be used there.

A model of the Third Temple has pride of place in the Temple Institute Museum just 100 yards from the Western Wall – all that remains of the Second Temple since its destruction by Rome in 70AD.

Rabbi Reuven said: “It’s not a fantasy at all because we have the instructions of what needs to be done, we have the information, we have the technology to achieve all these things.

“In terms of arriving at the moment that’s a historical process, we don’t expect a metaphysical change in the world, we don’t expect a divine intervention that’s going to set things right.”

His ambition may have a purely theological intent, but it also poses an explosive political reality.

He is sanguine.

“We’re hoping by increasing awareness we will be closer to achieving the dream of the Jewish people and one that we have for the entire world because as Isaiah says this shall be a house of prayer for all nations.”

Sacred Shrines Become ‘Ticking Time Bomb’.