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Olmert Under New Criminal Investigation

By: Amnon Meranda Jewish Press Tuesday, September 25, 2007

JERUSALEM – Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s decision to order another criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert shook Israel’s political establishment on Monday, with several Knesset members calling for the prime minister’s immediate suspension.

Olmert is suspected of purchasing a Jerusalem flat from a friend for a price $320,000 cheaper than the property’s market value in return for helping the construction firm that refurbished the apartment block gain illegal building permits.

National Religious Party chairman MK Zevulun Orlev, who is also chairman of the Knesset’s State Control Committee, said “no normal country allows its prime minister to stay in office while under an array of criminal investigations… Olmert must suspend himself immediately.”

Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin said the decision “seriously clouds Olmert’s ability to lead Israel through this critical time.”

“This decision, along with the numerous other financial suspicions against the prime minister, is enough to question his competence,” he said, adding that the prime minister would have to resign should the investigation result in an indictment.

MK Arieh Eldad, also of the National Religious Party, called on police to speed up the investigation against Olmert “and not to let the prime minister evade trial with his well-known rejection maneuvers.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said in response to Mazuz’s decision that it was “confident in the steps taken by the Olmert family prior to purchasing the apartment on Jerusalem’s Cremieux Street… We regret the decision to open what we are sure will prove to be an unnecessary police investigation.”

Olmert is currently under several simultaneous criminal investigations, including one dealing with the privatization of Bank Leumi

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