Ehud Olmert (1945-)

Prime Minister

Ehud Olmert was born in Nahalat Jabotinsky, near Binyamina, on 30th September, 1945. His father, Mordechai Olmert, was a member of the Revisionist movement and Herut.

In the Israel Defense Forces, Ehud Olmert became a Unit Officer in the Golani Brigade and was also military correspondent for the "Bamahane" journal. After his IDF service, he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he gained a BA in Psychology and Philosophy and an LL.B, later qualifying as a lawyer. During his student period, he was active in the Herut movement at the University, and in 1966 he joined "Hamerkaz Hahofshi", a party which ran in the elections on the Likud party list. He opened a lawyer's office and continued his political activity outside the Likud, being elected to the 8th Knesset in 1973 for this faction, and was returned to subsequent Knessets under similar arrangements, until 1985, when he officially joined the Likud. He became a member of the Central Committee and actively involved in party management, acting as Party Treasurer for the 1988 General Elections.

Ehud Olmert's early Knesset Committee work reflects many of the interest areas in which he has since engaged as a politician, government minister and Mayor of Jerusalem. The House Committee, State Control Committee; Constitution, Law & Justice Committee; Education, Culture & Sports Committee, Finance Committee; Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee; Internal Affairs & Environment Committee.

From 1988-1991, he was Minister without Portfolio for Minorities in the 12th Knesset, in the National Unity government led by Yitzhak Shamir. The government lost its coalition format and Olmert became as Minister of Health in the Likud government until the next elections. He initiated the far-reaching reform of the Israeli sick fund system into a mandatory form of taxation on all earned income, which effectively opened all the sick funds to the public, instituted compulsory and individualized health insurance, thus also eliminating employer contributions to personal health insurance. The reforms also impacted on government hospital structure and services; they were fully developed and implemented by his successor, Haim Ramon (Labor).

In 1993, Ehud Olmert stood against incumbent Labor Alignment Jerusalem Mayor, Teddy Kollek, in local elections. He won with a 60% majority and served two five-year terms, consolidating his majority in the 1998 Jerusalem municipal election. At the beginning of his second term, he was obliged to resign from the Likud government and the Knesset, under a new law to prevent MKs from holding other positions. In his role as Mayor of Jerusalem, he traveled widely and became known to Diaspora Jewry on issues related to Jerusalem and its future status. He also launched public works to improve Jerusalem's road and transport infrastructures.

He was returned to the 16th Knesset in 2003, where he engaged in coalition negotiations and was appointed Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Industry, Trade and Labor. Formerly known as a conservative, he opted for a pragmatic approach to the Palestinian issue and supported Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's move towards Disengagement, fostering support for the Disengagement Plan within the Likud, as well as in international forums. He also served as Minister of Communications from late 2003 until after Labor joined the coalition government in January 2005, but retained his responsibility for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, as well as for the Israel Lands Authority.

After the resignation of Benjamin Netanyahu as Finance Minister in August 2005, he became Acting Minister of Finance, an appointment that was confirmed by the Knesset in November 2005. By this time, the Labor Party had pulled out of the coalition and it was clear that Israel was going into an Election period; when Prime Minister Sharon left the Likud to form the Kadima Party, Ehud Olmert was one of the first to follow suit.

When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was first hospitalized for a minor stroke in December 2005, the transfer of authority to the Vice Premier was unclear; equally unclear was how the fortunes of the new Kadima Party would fare. Clarifications ensued and when the Prime Minister was hospitalized in serious condition for a major cerebral hemorrhage on 4th January, the transfer of authority was accomplished almost immediately, with Ehud Olmert becoming Acting Prime Minister of Israel.

Ehud Olmert became Prime Minister of Israel in the 17th Knesset, forming a government coalition led by Kadima, based on the Labor Party, Gil (the Pensioners' Party) and Shas. Yisrael Beitenu was also in the government from late 2006 through January 2008. The coalition remained shaky, unable to draw in further partners from the Israeli left or right wing.

The Israel government and Olmert's status were badly damaged by the reports of the Winograd Committee of Inquiry into the 43-day Second Lebanon War in 2006, criticizing Israel's political and military leadership and decision processes, with particular focus on the weakness of public services to the public in Israel's beleaguered North. After stepping down from the party leadership following police investigations into corruption and similar charges, when Tzipi Livni could not form a new coalition, the government fell. Thus Olmert completed his tenure as Prime Minister of a caretaker government, pending early elections.

Ehud Olmert is married to Aliza and lives in Jerusalem; they have four children. He is a keen supporter of Israel football, particularly Betar Jerusalem. His brother, Professor Yossi Olmert, is the former Director of the Government Press Office, a Middle East specialist, journalist and political commentator.

Further References

MFA
http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/2000_2009/2003/3/Ehud%20Olmert

Knesset
http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/eng/mk_eng.asp?mk_individual_id_t=3
http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/heb/mk.asp?mk_individual_id_t=3 [Hebrew]

Ministry of Trade & Industry
http://dover.mof.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/DC6E9EC6-9793-4894-8CFB-1C3AE38DF967/0/%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%AA%D7%97%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9D%D7%90%D7%94%D7%95%D7%93%D7%90%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%98.doc [Hebrew]

Jerusalem Municipality
http://www.jerusalem.muni.il/english/muni/mayor/mayor.htm [see linked articles; bio is partly updated]
http://www.jerusalem.muni.il/muni/mayor/mayor.htm [Hebrew; not updated]

Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ehud_Olmert [fully updated, critical coverage]
http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%90%D7%94%D7%95%D7%93_%D7%90%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%98 [Hebrew]

Ynet
http://www.ynet.co.il/yaan/0,7340,L-90605,00.html [Hebrew]

Other links
Yossi Olmert http://www.benadorassociates.com/olmert.php

 

 

 

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05 Jan 2006 / 5 Tevet 5766 0