April 6, 2014

Olmert Lecture Cancelled After Bribery Conviction

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In light of his recent conviction for taking bribes while in office, Ehud Olmert — former prime minister of Israel — will no longer speak at Cornell on April 8, according to a Jewish National Fund press release issued Tuesday.

The former prime minister was convicted of taking bribes to “ease the construction of a huge housing complex while he was mayor of Jerusalem,” according to The New York Times. He is now facing up to seven years in prison and is barred from leaving Israel.

Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003, supervising the Israel Lands Authority during the construction of a luxury housing complex called Holyland, The New York Times said. The complex — which some Jerusalem residents call “the monster” — grew to more than 12 times the height it was allotted in the original permits.

His verdict was “the most severe ever against a former Israeli prime minister,” The New York Times reported.

Olmert was scheduled to speak at Cornell about how Israel maintains a democracy amongst its Middle East neighbors, The Sun previously reported. The event was to be hosted by Cornell Hillel.

Samantha Weisman ’15, president of Hillel, said that while the organization was “disappointed” due to the cancellation, the situation was not under their control.

“Although we are disappointed he won’t be coming, the Jewish National Fund was bringing him and it was ultimately their decision,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but we have a lot of great programming for the rest of the semester [we are] looking forward to.”

Corey Shapiro ’17 also said the cancellation of Olmert’s appearance at Cornell was “unfortunate.”

“I was looking forward to hearing Olmert speak,” he said. “I was sad to see him convicted after how helpful he was to Israel in a time of crisis, when [former prime minister of Israel] Ariel Sharon suffered from a stroke. Olmert really took control of Israel at a tough time in the nation’s history, and will always be remembered for that.”

The JNF was to sponsor Olmert’s four-campus tour in conjunction with Media Watch International in order to drive constructive dialogue on college campuses about issues affecting Israel, according to a March 26 JNF release.