A defiant Ehud Olmert says he has not taken bribes, and will only resign if indicted on criminal charges.
The Israeli prime minister went on television late on Thursday night to make the brief statement following intense speculation he was on the point of throwing in the towel. A media blackout on reporting on the affair has been lifted. He admits accepting donations from an American businessman, but says they had no strings attached. A police investigation continues.
It was a sombre end for Olmert to a day of birthday celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of Israel, including beach barbecues, street parties, and military displays for a nation that has never known peace.
It all went on under the watchful eyes of the security services. The atmosphere was very different elsewhere, in Bethlehem, for example. Palestinians held a funeral march for the anniversary of what they call the “nakba”, or catastrophe, of Israel’s creation, during which half of Palestine’s Arab population fled or were driven from their homes.
At the day’s end Olmert and the rest of the government joined in song, but after 60 years harmony still seems far away.