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Olmert Will Headline J Street Conference

Ehud Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, will be a keynote speaker at the annual J Street conference.

Olmert will speak at the dovish pro-Israel group’s gala dinner on March 26, according to an invitation sent Thursday morning to members of the U.S. Congress. JTA obtained an invitation, and a J Street official confirmed its authenticity.

Olmert started his political career in the Likud Party, but gravitated toward the center with former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, joining with him in establishing the Kadima Party in 2005. Olmert became prime minister in 2006 after Sharon suffered a stroke, and led the party to a decisive victory in elections that year.

He led negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and now says he was prepared to make the most far-reaching compromises with the Palestinian leader in 2008, only to be turned down.

Palestinian officials say Olmert by that time was too damaged by corruption scandals for the offer to be credible.

Olmert stepped down in 2009 to face criminal investigations, and was replaced by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is still the prime minister. Olmert’s corruption trials are ongoing.

J Street has had tense relations with the Netanyahu government, which has sought to marginalize the group for not fully standing behind Israel’s efforts to push back against investigations of Israel’s conduct in the 2009 Gaza war, and for equivocating on Iran sanctions until late 2009.

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