Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started serving a 19-month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice on Monday, becoming the first Israeli premier to be imprisoned and capping a years-long legal saga that forced him to resign in 2006 amid the last serious round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Olmert walked into the Maasiyahu prison in central Israel hours after he released a video making a last-minute plea to Israelis meant to salvage his legacy. In the video, he appealed on the nation to remember his peace-making efforts as leader and denied any wrongdoing in the bribery conviction against him.
The three and a half minute video, released by his office and filmed at his home a day earlier, shows a weary-looking Olmert. He says it is a “painful and strange” time for him and his family and that he is paying a “heavy” price, but also adding that he has accepted the sentence because “no man is above the law.”
“At this hour it is important for me to say again … I reject outright all the corruption allegations against me,” Olmert said in the footage. He said that in hindsight, the Israeli public might view the charges against him and the seven-year legal ordeal that enveloped him in a “balanced and critical way.”
“I hope that then many will recognize that during my term as prime minister, honest and promising attempts were made to create an opening for hope and a better future of peace, happiness and well-being,” he said.
Olmert, 70, was convicted in March 2014 in a wide-ranging case that accused him of accepting bribes to promote a controversial real-estate project in Jerusalem.