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Israeli PM Olmert Questioned on Corruption Allegations


The investigation involving Israel's embattled leader is apparently taking a new turn. And his job could be in jeopardy, as we hear from Robert Berger at the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israeli police investigators questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in connection with allegations of corruption. Police say Mr. Olmert fully cooperated during an hour of questioning at his official residence in Jerusalem. There was little prior notice, and Israel media say that means police may have new evidence that could implicate the prime minister.

A number of scandals have dogged Mr. Olmert with regard to his conduct as an elected official before he became prime minister in 2006. In 2004, police suspect that he bought his home in Jerusalem at far below the market value in exchange for helping a contractor acquire building permits. In 2003, he is suspected of appointing allies to a state business authority. Last year, police closed a case involving alleged misconduct in the sale of a government bank because of lack of evidence.

Mr. Olmert denies any wrongdoing.

Michael Partem of the Movement for Quality Government says the Prime Minister is innocent until proven guilty. But he says the continuing spectacle of police questioning the nation's leader is a distraction.

"With so many investigations ongoing simultaneously into criminal behavior, this is going to impact negatively on the functioning of our elected officials," said Partem.

The investigations come at a time when Mr. Olmert is dealing with major issues, including peace talks with the Palestinians, continuing Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza and Iran's nuclear program. Partem believes police should act accordingly.

"The best result for all concerned would be a speedy and swift end to the investigations," he said.

Nevertheless, the investigations are expected to continue for many more months. If, in the end, Mr. Olmert is indicted, he would be forced to step down.

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