Talk about awkward timing. Next week, President Bush heads to Israel to mark that country’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations. But as Israeli media have reported this week, a rapidly moving corruption investigation has put the political future of Bush’s chief interlocutor there, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, in jeopardy.
Israeli media are subject to a sweeping court gag order inhibiting them from reporting details of the investigation. But today, the New York Post reported that a New York financier, Morris Talansky, with residences in Long Island and an apartment in Jerusalem, is central to the investigation of whether Olmert took bribes when he served as mayor of Jerusalem:
A Long Island mogul is at the center of a sensational bribery scandal that could bring down embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, The Post has learned.
Millionaire financier Morris Talansky – who runs an investment firm out of his tony home in Woodmere – allegedly passed money to Olmert while the politician was mayor of Jerusalem in the ’90s, sources said.
In a highly unusual move, Israeli authorities have barred the country’s media from publishing Talansky’s name – revealed now in The Post – saying it could hamper their investigation. Israeli media has referred only to the involvement of an “American businessman.”
Talansky is apparently set to sing to Israeli authorities about his alleged role in the scheme, sources said. …
The 75-year-old was earlier questioned about the alleged scheme almost immediately after arriving in the country for Passover, and he implicated Olmert, sources have said.
It was unclear what the alleged payments to Olmert were for, but sources said they involved hefty amounts of cash.
Talansky repeatedly appears – sometimes under the nickname “The Laundry Man” – in the logs of financial dealings kept by Olmert’s longtime aide, Shula Zakan, a source said.
Olmert was grilled by investigators Friday. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. …
Fevered speculation aside, Olmert could very well come out of the whole thing ultimately unscathed. Israeli political life has a kind of Italian drama and turmoil to it, and yet key players seem to have a decades long persistence. Stay tuned.