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Former Israeli PM Spared Jail Time

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) speaks on the phone as he leaves the Jerusalem District court, September 24, 2012.
A top Israeli politician has been sentenced in a corruption scandal that riveted the nation.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was fined $18,000 on corruption charges, but a Jerusalem court decided that he will not serve time in prison.

Olmert was convicted of breach of trust in July for helping allocate government contracts to cronies while he was minister of trade and industry. But he was acquitted of weightier charges such as accepting envelopes stuffed with cash from an American Jewish businessman. So the relatively light sentence was seen as a victory.

“I walk out of here with my head held high,” Olmert told reporters at the courthouse.

But State Prosecutor Eli Arbabanel, who had pushed for prison time, said breach of trust is a grave offense for a senior public servant.

He said the conviction shows that no one is above the law.

Olmert had denied any wrongdoing in the corruption scandal that forced him to resign four years ago. But after the sentencing he was contrite. “I accept the court's decision,” he said, “and I will learn the necessary lessons.”

By avoiding prison time, Olmert is eligible to run for parliament.

As prime minister in 2008, he said he offered the Palestinians an independent state in 95 percent of the West Bank and was very close to a peace agreement.

But then he was forced to resign, and six months later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to power, backed by proponents of Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Peace talks with the Palestinians have been deadlocked ever since.

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