An extremely rare native Israeli bird, the fork-tongued double-dipper has been spotted in the Israeli prime minister’s office. It has a nasty habit of pecking at any outstretched hand it finds when it sees bright shiny coins in them. And it’s known to feed voraciously and steal from anyone foolish to leave their bounty unguarded. All this by way of saying that Ehud Olmert seems to have come up with an ingenious method of corruption that didn’t involve stealing from just anyone–he stole from charities. That’s a particularly low blow in Jewish tradition since tzedakah and caring for those in need is held in such high regard.
The police and the Justice Ministry released a joint statement on Friday saying that they had widened a corruption investigation against Olmert and that the prime minister was suspected of asking several charities and state institutions to pay for the same trips abroad. The statement added that Olmert was suspected of using the money to fund family vacations.
…The latest suspicions pertain to Olmert’s stint as Jerusalem mayor and his time as minister of industry and trade, during which he allegedly asked for and received the money from organizations…
According to the suspicions, Olmert’s travel agency, Rishon Tours, allegedly sent invoices to each organization who gave money for the same flights, as though each had been the only contributor.
Each body then had its own receipt that it had funded the trip, and the surplus money – apparently a substantial amount – was allegedly deposited in a private bank account in Olmert’s name, which was handled by the same travel agency. The suspicion is that these funds were then used to pay for private trips abroad for Olmert and his family. On some occasions, Olmert’s wife and children traveled on their own. Police say Olmert amassed close to $100,000 in the private bank account over the course of many years.
Among the agencies which allegedly funded Olmert’s trips are AKIM, a charity geared towards aiding mentally disabled children; ALEH, a group that cares for physically challenged children; Yad Vashem; the Simon Wiesenthal Center; and American Friends of the IDF.
As a Jewish communal fundraiser, I have an idea of how the mechanics of this might have worked. If Olmert scheduled a trip during which he would address two or three charity events, he could bill each one for the full cost of the trip. Each charity would accept it was paying for the trip since it was booking him for a major fundraising event. Even if a fundraiser knew that Olmert was speaking for other groups during his trip, he would never think to ask whether the other groups were paying for his travel since he’d assume his own group was the only one doing so.
But I do have to say the guy has balls because Jewish fundraising can be an especially close-knit circle and it wouldn’t be hard for a fundraiser for one group engaging Olmert to speak to a fundraiser for another also engaging him, and for the two of them to compare notes and discover that each one was paying his full travel expenses. That would let the cat out of the bag. Though I’m sure Olmert would believe he could bluff his way out of such a situation as a respected Israeli leader. As I said, very ballsy.
When you think about it, this guy had a chance to leave a lasting legacy. He could’ve negotiated a final status agreement with the Palestinians. He could have resolved the Israeli-Syrian conflict and the long-term conflict with Lebanon. He could’ve neutered Iran as a perpetual Israel enemy. What did he do instead? He financed family vacations on the backs of Jewish charities. What a waste. A waste of hard-earned charity money and a waste of human potential.
William Burns says
Olmert is a sleaze, but if there was ever an organization that sounded like it deserved to be ripped off, it’s “American Friends of the IDF”
Nayana Ayal says
Interesting post. Thank you. I have been living in israel for a year now and have tried to steer clear of politics. With my hebrew in its infancy,this has been relatively easy to achieve.
The story of the corrupt Olmert however did attract my interest and I must say I am a little confused.
This man seems to have committed a number of morally disgusting crimes, yet is still in power and representing the nation.
Why do the Israeli community not demand that he step down? Does it not harm the nation by him staying in power?
lookig forward to understanding the thought process of this from a local point of view.