The Zionist Federation (ZF) moved swiftly this week to defend its decision to invite disgraced former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to address its 120th anniversary dinner.
The former prime minister was imprisoned in in 2014 after being convicted of accepting bribes and obstructing justice. The charges related to a period in 2006 when he was serving as Mayor of Jerusalem and Trade Minister.
He served 16 months of a 27-month sentence and has never expressed remorse or contrition.
ZF chairman Paul Charney defended the decision to invite Olmert to the 24 February dinner, saying: “He has a story to tell and he will be held to some tough questioning by an objective, professional, renowned interviewer”.
He added: “We at the ZF want to bring relevant, interesting and even controversial speakers that the community will be fascinated to hear from.”
Charney was forced to comment after Gavin Gross, a former ZF director, questioned the decision to host Olmert, writing on Facebook that the former prime minister is “fiercely unrepentant and claims the bribery convictions were a conspiracy against him”.
Olmert, who served as Prime Minister from 2006 until 2009, will be interviewed at the dinner by Rageh Omaar, ITV’s international affairs editor.
Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, the international chair of Arzenu, the Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists that sits on the ZF, defended the invitation, saying it “might prove to be a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that Israel has a well-functioning and independent judiciary”.
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