Haaretz reports today that Israeli police are widening their bribery investigation, questioning gaming magnate and Likud supporter Sheldon Adelson and others about solicitations that Ehud Olmert may have made on behalf of Morris Talansky and his Israeli business interests. They are attempting to establish a quid pro quo that would explain Talansky’s cash contributions to Olmert and more firmly establish the bribery case against the latter:
The focus of the investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continued on Tuesday to focus on the search for any quid pro quo that Olmert might have provided to U.S. businessman Morris Talansky in exchange for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he is suspected of giving to Olmert.
Police questioned billionaire U.S. businessmen Sheldon Adelson and S. Daniel Abraham in connection with the investigation…
Real estate tycoon Adelson on Tuesday provided a sworn statement to detectives. Police believe that Olmert wrote to him and at least one other major hotel owner and asked them to buy mini-bar refrigerators for their properties made by a company in which Talansky had a stake at the time. Talansky himself is thought to be behind the letter, which did not result in purchase orders.
In a video interview featured at the Haaretz website, Talansky claims he has never had any Israeli business interests and would have no reason to want to bribe Olmert:
I emphatically deny that I had it in my mind to do any business in Israel. It never crossed my mind to do business here. I don’t own any land. I don’t own any buildings. I don’t own any factories. I never built anything here. Never, never, never was that my purpose. I have one apartment [in Israel]. That’s all I had.
In fact, the N.Y. Times and other publications have established that Talansky was a partner in an Israeli satellite company and sued the Israeli government because it refused to allow the company to do business with Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela. The above passage also makes clear that Talansky owned a company (which I assume was Israeli) manufacturing and distributing hotel mini-bars.
The above statement of course is entirely disingenuous since these days people own stakes in companies and don’t necessarily have to own land, build buildings or own factories in order to do business in Israel.
I hope the Israeli police realize they have a highly combustible, temperamental and potentially mendacious witness on their hands. Add to this, Talansky’s mafia-like interactions with past business associates. Not to mention that he is an Orthodox rabbi (in name only I presume). Can one think of a more impeachable witness? And to think that this is the type of American Jew that Israeli politicians so eagerly embrace. I only hope that Olmert will need Talansky to make his case more than the police will to make theirs. To put oneself in the hands of someone of Talansky’s stature is rolling the dice with the legal fates.
If one needed any further evidence of Olmert’s scuzziness, witness his attempt to place the blame for any potential culpability on the head of his former law partner, Uri Messer, rather than himself. It’s truly a tawdry performance. All I can say is that a nation gets the leaders it deserves. Let us hope that Israel will free itself of Olmert soon and not choose an even worse leader in Bibi Netanyahu.
Does the fact that George Bush called Olmert “an honest guy” yesterday tell you something about the judgment of our soon-to-be-ex-president??