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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Shootout at the OK corral

There's shootout coming at the Olmert-Kadima corral. A rebellion within his Kadima Achora party is gathering steam, and Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert is trying to save his rear end by appealing to the party's most dominant trait (greed) and arguing that only he - Ehud K. Olmert - can save their jobs by saving them from new elections. The 'strategy' is what we Israelis call "tamot nafshi im Plishtim," a reference to the biblical judge Samson that I explained here.
Even the MK's who are most closely aligned with Olmert are seeking an 'honorable departure.' Amid reports that Olmert himself does not know whether he will survive, his main Kadima rival, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, is expected to make a statement about Olmert in Wednesday's cabinet meeting that could decide whether the opposition to the prime minister will escalate into full-scale rebellion.

An official close to Olmert said MKs allying themselves with the prime minister had begun discussing ways for Olmert to negotiate an "honorable departure" from his office. The MKs committed themselves to supporting Olmert only in the short-term, to give the prime minister time to leave "respectfully" and ensure that a successor take over who is not one of his rivals.

"Many of the voices of support for the prime minister have an expiration date in the near future," the official said. "For various reasons - mostly for the future of the party - it has been decided that it would be better that Olmert not be forced out by the opposition." [Note that they couldn't give a darn about the country - only the party. And you thought that kind of talk was limited to David Ben Gurion's Labor party. CiJ]

Kadima faction chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki has spoken to nearly all the Kadima MKs since Monday afternoon's release of the Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War. He expressed confidence that nearly the entire faction would support an effort to overthrow Olmert.

"I don't know anyone who wouldn't be happy if he quit, including the people closest to him," Yitzhaki told MKs. "Everyone realizes that [Olmert] staying in power is not good for Kadima or the country. The question is how to convince him to leave."
How to convince him to leave? How about this:

Of course, there was a lot that came before that letter, but note that the scene described below was just two days before Nixon's resignation:
It's the night of Aug. 7, 1974, in the Lincoln Sitting Room of the White House. On the eve of his resignation, a beleaguered Richard Nixon meets with Henry Kissinger, hoping to come up with some way to stay in power.

Quietly, then with growing enthusiasm, he recounts the tale of Napoleon's return from exile on Elba, his confrontation with the troops sent to arrest him and his triumphant return to Paris at their head. "Is that," he pleads with plaintive hopefulness, "too much to ask?"
Yes, that quote came from a play review, but it's not too different from the description I remember of Nixon and Kissinger praying together in Woodward and Bernstein's The Final Days. And Olmert makes Nixon look positively righteous. But Olmert doesn't want to quit:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's strategy for political survival became clear Tuesday: ensure that the 29 Kadima MKs realize that if he is swept from office the coalition will fall apart.


Olmert met separately Tuesday with Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Gil Pensioners head Rafi Eitan - a day after the Winograd Committee's damning interim report and as the calls for his resignation grew louder, including from within the ranks of his own party.

According to political sources in the Olmert camp, he left these meetings with confidence that these parties' support for Kadima was contingent on Olmert leading the party.

Olmert's plan, in the period before the scheduled Kadima meeting on Thursday, is to meet with the MKs and tell them that if he was forced to resign, and was replaced within the party by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Vice Premier Shimon Peres or Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, then these parties would not stay in the coalition.

This strategy is based on the assumption that the Kadima MKs do not want new elections, because of the fear that the party would be wiped out at the polls. Olmert wants the MKs to understand that if they try to replace him, new elections would inevitably follow because the current coalition would fall apart.

If Livni is given Kadima's reins, Olmert plans on telling the Kadima MKs, the coalition will disintegrate.
And all I can say about the coalition disintegrating is: From your lips to God's ears. Faster! Faster!


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