Israel Police investigators conducted a third interrogation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday in relation to mounting evidence that he accepted bribes during his time as mayor of Jerusalem and later as minister of industry and trade under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The investigation marks the sixth corruption scandal Olmert has been involved in since becoming prime minister. This time round, police officials cited by the Israeli media say the evidence is extremely damning, and that if Olmert were not prime minister he would already have been arrested.
The current investigation centers on accusations that Olmert received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky in return for various favors. Talansky and several former Olmert aides have reportedly been rather forthcoming with police regarding the details of the monetary gifts, putting Olmert himself in a very tight position as he struggles to maintain power.
Olmert's associates have responded by accusing the police of conducting a witch hunt and of treating the prime minister far too aggressively in the local press. Sources close to the investigation say the atmosphere between the Prime Minister's Office and the police is now one of extreme tension.
A former chief investigator told Ha'aretz that based on the evidence police have gathered, he is certain an indictment will be filed against Olmert very soon.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted by Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, revealed on Friday that 79 percent of those who voted for Olmert's Kadima Party in the last national election want the prime minister to step down immediately. The respondents also said Olmert should definitely not be allowed to run in Kadima's upcoming primary election in mid-September.
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