“THE VOTE BY THE DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE MAY DIRECTLY CONTRIBUTE TO THE FALL OF THE GOVERNMENT”: IMPORTANT LETTER IN HEBREW SIGNED BY EHUD OLMERT
OLMERT, Ehud. Typed letter signed. Jerusalem: November 1, 1979. Original typed letter, two leaves of stationary, each 8 by 12 inches (A4 size), staple bound, typewritten on rectos only. $2200.
Original two-page letter typewritten in Hebrew and boldly signed by Knesset member Ehud Olmert, regarding Israeli abortion law. Written and signed in Hebrew.
This angry two-page letter, typed on official Knesset stationery and boldly signed by Ehud Olmert, reads, in translation: “The Knesset, Member of Knesset Ehud Olmert. Jerusalem, 11 Heshvan 5740. November 1, 1979. [To] Member of Knesset Avraham Sharir, Chair, Likud Faction. The Knesset. Dear Member of Knesset Sharir, Pursuant to my letter to you dated October 30, 1979, I would like to call your attention to the following facts: A. As a Member of Knesset on behalf of the Likud faction in the Eighth Knesset, I was among the initiators of the bill permitting abortions. I was one of those who signed the bill, which eventually became law, and which included, inter alia, the clause permitting abortions in a context of social distress. B. I am not ignoring the coalition agreement which was signed between Agudat Yisrael and the Likud, and which concerns, inter alia, that law. In principle, I subscribe to the position that holds that agreements should be honored. However, in the past, in similar circumstances, the faction was always capable of taking into account the special situation of a single Member of Knesset, in the context of subjects that concern principles and conscience. C. (1) Under the present special circumstances, the consideration which is presented as most important is the fear that failure to pass the law will lead to the dissolution of the coalition agreement with Agudat Israel, and may even bring down the Government. (2) In the same context, I have been told that the Democratic faction, which includes seven Members of Knesset, including Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin and Minister of Justice Shmuel Tamir, because it is not part of the aforementioned coalition agreement, will be able to vote against the aforesaid law. (3) It accordingly transpires that the vote by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice may directly contribute to the fall of the Government and the dissolution of the coalition. D. With all due respect, I cannot understand how it is possible to demand that a Member of Knesset vote against his own position and principles, and at the same time, to enable senior members of Government, including the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, to vote against the law, and perhaps even to bring down the Government. E. Do you really believe that my responsibility for the fate of the Government should be greater than the responsibility of senior Ministers who are members of that Government? F. With all due respect, I am not prepared to accept the position which holds that senior members of Government can be at peace with their conscience while voting against the Government, whereas I must force my own conscience so as to enable these members to hold the rope of the Government at both ends. Very truly yours, [Signed] Ehud Olmert.” In addition, someone has written, in Hebrew, “Olmert” at the top of the first page in pencil, and “filing” in pen on the same page.
Ehud Olmert is the 12th prime minister of Israel, having assumed the position following Ariel Sharon’s stroke in January, 2006. In his distinguished career as an Israeli politician, Olmert has been a Knesset member (beginning in 1973), Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, and Mayor of Jerusalem. This letter concerns pressure Olmert was under to vote against his conscience in order to support his political party in the Knesset. The issue in question was the legalization of abortion, which Olmert supported, but which the conservative, religious political party Agudat Yisrael was against. As Agudat Yisrael and Olmert’s party (Likud) had formed a governing coalition, Olmert’s defection on this issue risked bringing down the government. In angry terms Olmert lists the key points in the debate, his anger at the pressure he is receiving, and the reasons why he should not be expected to vote against his conscience. The final result of Olmert’s defiance did not extend as far as bringing down the government, and he has gone on to have a long and distinguished career as a politician.
Two round holes punched in margin. A fine letter, boldly written and signed by Ehud Olmert, with important content.