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Thursday, May 08, 2008

6 signs that Olmert is finished as Prime Minister

Last night, I received an email from a reader in Australia that attached a document in Hebrew that claimed to know what is really going on with the latest Olmert bribery scandal. Because the gag order is still in effect, I'm not going to go into a lot of details, but the letter claims that the gentleman who was named in the New York Post and Times this week is just one of several (the letter names names) who bribed Olmert during his term as Mayor of Jerusalem and in the few years after that. The man who was named in the US media apparently decided that enough is enough, that Olmert is trying to give away Jerusalem, and decided voluntarily, on his own, to bring down Olmert's government. He walked into a police station on his arrival here for Pesach and said that he has something to tell them about Olmert. If that's right, he's a hero in my book. In any event, the evidence he has against Olmert is real and the testimony is devastating. Note that Olmert's former bureau chief Shula Zaken's attorney said yesterday that his client has not been offered a deal to turn State's witness. That's why. The prosecution doesn't need her.

The other names in the document are Americans and American olim. What they have in common aside from that is that they are all wealthy and (I believe) all ultra-Orthodox. And they all apparently made a little extracurricular payment to Olmert.

Recall that when he was Mayor of Jerusalem, Olmert was the city's biggest defender, and that he lambasted Ehud Barak for even suggesting that Jerusalem should be divided. Times have changed.

There are some signs this morning that Olmert is on his last legs. Here are a few:

1. Olmert did not show up at the torch-lighting on Mount Herzl last night. He spoke by remote video. He was afraid of being booed.

2. The gag order will likely be partially or fully lifted later today. With the information published in the media abroad (which State's Attorney Moshe Lador called 'inaccurate' and 'misleading'), everyone acknowledges that the gag order is meaningless. Were it not for Memorial Day and Independence Day, the gag order likely would have been lifted on Tuesday night.

3. There will be no three-way meeting between Bush, Olmert and Abu Mazen when President Bush is here next week. Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, tried to put a game face on that yesterday:
"This did not seem the time for a big, high-level, three-way event," Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security adviser, told reporters. "It just doesn't feel right as the best way to advance the negotiation."
But I can think of at least two other explanations for that meeting not taking place: There is no memorandum of understanding - as far as I can tell no one is even working on one. And Bush realizes that Olmert's days as Prime Minister are numbered and that he will not be the one to advance the 'peace process' - if indeed it is to be advanced at all.

4. While the top-ranking Knesset members from Olmert's Kadima party have remained silent on Olmert's woes in a bid to project an image of statesmanship that might bode well for them taking his place, the rank and file Knesset members from Kadima - those who would likely lose their seats in a new election - are all over Olmert to stop conducting 'peace negotiations' that the country will never accept and resign.

5. The media yesterday had several stories about Foreign Minister Tzipi Feigele Livni preparing to take over as Prime Minister. If Olmert resigns, Kadima's own party rules require a primary to select a new candidate and I doubt that the 'best interests of the party' are going to move people like Shaul Mofaz, Avi Dichter or Meir Shitreet right now. Livni may become Prime Minister - but only in a caretaker government until there are new elections.

6. This morning (the report literally just came over the wires), there are reports that Ehud Barak is debating when (not whether) to bring down the government. Barak cannot become Prime Minister without going to new elections because he is not a member of Knesset. On the other hand, Barak knows that if there are elections now, Netanyahu will win. He needs a power-sharing arrangement to give him enough time to establish himself as a credible rival to Netanyahu. That's not likely to happen. More likely is that Barak sacrifices the short-term, becomes opposition leader (or defense minister in a unity government with Netanyahu) and bides his time for a few more years.

If the gag order gets lifted today, I may have a lot more news on this story.


At 2:56 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Ehud Olmert is widely unloved. There are few in Israel who would rally behind him and what has kept him in the PMO has been Kadima's fear of a new election. If the party is going to commit electoral suicide, they want to do it now with a fresh face rather than going out with s scandal-tarred Olmert at the helm.

There's something to this particular story that suggests its more damaging than Olmert's bungling of the Lebanon War and his indifference to the Hamas buildup in Gaza. With Independence Day behind Israel, the reality is the next Prime Minister faces major challenges that have to be dealt with that Olmert avoided due to being pre-occupied with his political survival. And the nature of those challenges preclude an agreement with the Palestinians later this year.

At 7:40 PM, Blogger J. Lichty said...

It is time for the craven kapo to be brought to justice. from your keyboard to god's ears.


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