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Monday, May 25, 2015

Former Israeli Prime Minister Gets Jail Time on Bribery Charges Following Government Appeal

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s efforts to fend off a series of corruption charges in high-profile cases came closer to an end when he was sentenced on Monday to eight months in prison and another eight on probation in the case known as the “Talansky affair.” The case is named after the American businessman who allegedly gave then-mayor of Jerusalem and later the economy minister envelopes containing large sums of cash that he used for his personal interests. Olmert, who has already been sentenced to 6-years for his role in a real estate scandal, was acquitted of charges in the Talansky case in 2012. But in Israel, where the prosecution is able to appeal a criminal verdict, new evidence supplied by Olmert’s longtime closest associate in return for a plea bargain turned the scales against him. Olmert said he’ll appeal to the Supreme Court.

Iraqi President says US Defense Chief “Has Got it Wrong”
A spokesman for the Iraqi president says US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has been listening to the wrong people because he’s got it wrong. Spokesman Saad Al-Hadithi said on Monday that the Baghdad government was “surprised” to hear Carter say in regard to the lost battle for Ramadi that the Iraqis “lost the will to win.” The American official apparently based his comments on the number of Iraqi troops that took off during the fighting, some leaving weapons and equipment on the field of battle as they left. Al-Hadithi blamed the loss of the strategic site to ISIS on mismanagement and poor planning by army officers.

Prime Minister Netanyahu turns to Old Guard to Shore Up Coalition
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu enters his unprecedented fourth term as head of Israel’s government, he is apparently shoring-up his own power-base in those key ministries he still controls after bargaining away most of the prime portfolios as political capital in order to form the governing coalition. On Monday, Netanyahu removed the last vestige of controversial foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman when the PM fired the incumbent director general and replaced him with longtime trusted ally Dr. Dore Gold. Gold served a stint as a popular ambassador to the United Nations and has served as a key adviser to Netanyahu for many years and throughout all of his terms atop the government. In order to have enough political currency available to weave his new coalition together, Netanyahu retained the portfolio of minister of foreign affairs for himself and bifurcated the remaining responsibilities between interior minister Sylvan Shalom and deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely, each believing they are in control of the ministry. The appearance of Gold, who is both respected abroad and a seasoned pro within the Jewish state, leaves no doubt that Netanyahu’s control of the foreign ministry will be hands-on. Some observers also see an additional benefit to the prime minister in the Gold appointment in the form of ameliorating some of the angst in Washington attributed to another close Netanyahu aide: Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.

Israel Thanks President Obama for Killing Nuclear Weapons-free Zone Conference
Prime Minister Netanyahu phoned President Obama on Saturday to thank him for effectively killing the creation of an international conference to make the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free-zone by March of next year. The US prevented the issuing of a concluding statement for the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference being held in New York. The concluding statement was going to include the mandate for the United Nations Secretary General to organize the conference. Israel claims it is the only logical target to de-militarizing nuclear energy and that the proposed conference would have its policy of nuclear ambiguity in its sights. Sources at the conference say Egypt was given the greatest amount of blame for its failure to make progress on nuclear non-proliferation due to its bringing “unrealistic and unworkable” demands to the session.