Israel’s 60th birthday celebrations yesterday ended in uncertainty and confrontation yesterday as fresh details emerged about a corruption investigation into the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and a riot briefly pitted Arab Israelis against the police.
Celebrations marking the 1948 creation of the state of Israel were muted by the growing crisis surrounding Olmert. The festivities, the fireworks, the military displays and the barbecues had barely finished when the Tel Aviv magistrates court loosened a gag order on the investigation, revealing that Olmert is suspected of accepting bribes involving “significant sums of money”.
The investigation, the latest in a string of corruption inquiries that have dogged Olmert since he took over from Ariel Sharon in 2006, began 11 days ago, when the national fraud unit, having received new information in another inquiry, interviewed the embattled leader.
Olmert’s chief of staff, Shula Zaken, who is now under house arrest, and his lawyer, Uri Messer, have also been questioned, a police statement issued after the court relaxed the gag order said.
“It is suspected that the prime minister received significant sums of money from a foreigner or number of foreign individuals over an extended period of time, partly directly and partly indirectly,” the police statement said.