Powered by WebAds

Friday, May 30, 2008

A 'graceful' exit?

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Feigele Livni joined Defense Minister Ehud Barak in calling for new elections.
"As of yesterday, there is a new reality," Livni said, speaking at a homeland security conference in Jerusalem. "I can't ignore the events of the past two days. This is no longer just a criminal or judicial issue. This is about values and norms that impact the State of Israel."

Livni made a point of not mentioning Olmert by name. Sources close to Livni said she was trying to avoid being seen by Kadima members as attempting to depose him, because undermining a prime minister under fire might help her main challenger for the party leadership, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who has recently allied himself with Olmert.

"Kadima needs to take a decision on what it wants," Livni said. It needs to prepare now for all possible scenarios, including elections. These are the things I've been telling party and faction members. I'm working towards a swift, clean, process."
'Sources within Kadima' lashed out at Livni, accusing her of trying to destroy the party in cooperation with Ehud Barak. One of those accusing Livni is Transportation Minister (and former Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff) Shaul Mofaz, who is Livni's main rival in Kadima and who has been mentioned from time to time as a possible returnee to Likud and Defense Minister under Netanyahu.
"This deal among Barak, [political consultant] Reuven Adler and Livni to break Kadima up won't work. Only Kadima people will determine its fate," said Mofaz, who intends to contend for Kadima's leadership.
But Kadima's rank and file is in Livni's court. A survey of registered Kadima members shows 69% in favor of Livni as party leader in the event that Olmert resigns. But 60% also don't want Olmert to step down unless there is 'more concrete' evidence against him.

As to Olmert, he apparently has finally read the writing on the wall. Thursday night, Kadima party chair Tzachi Hanegbi - an Olmert loyalist - started arranging for party primaries. It is highly unlikely he would have done so without Olmert signing off on it. And Olmert is apparently now looking for a 'graceful way' to bow out, which primaries would provide.
According to the proposal, the prime minister would give the authorization necessary to initiate a Kadima primary that would elect his successor.

If Olmert is not charged in the Talansky affair, he would continue to serve as party leader and prime minister until the next general election, and the primary winner would become his heir apparent. If he is indicted and keeps his promise to step down, the winner could either form a new government or lead the party in elections that appear increasingly likely to take place by the end of the year.

"We can remove Olmert without being brutal, while addressing the public outcry against corruption," said a senior Kadima official who is close to the prime minister. "This proposal will give him a chance to prove his innocence, while making sure the party will be ready for any eventuality. The more his senior political allies persuade him to go for it, the more likely he is to accept it."

Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi, who heads the party's steering committee, announced that he would summon representatives of the four candidates to replace Olmert to decide on a mechanism for the primary.

Hanegbi denied reports that he would seek to set a date for the primary next week, but candidates who spoke to Kadima MKs on Thursday said a September race was likely.

"Regardless of what is happening with the investigation, the party has to get ready," he said. "We hope the prime minister will not be indicted, but [Labor Chairman Ehud] Barak began a process when he called for Olmert to leave office that requires steps on our part."
And the government may fall sooner rather than later regardless of what Kadima does. Next week, Shas' Council of Torah sages will convene to decide whether it should leave the government over the government's rejection of its demand for increased child welfare allowances (the monthly payments we receive from the National Insurance Institute for every child under 16).
Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On rejected a demand by Shas to substantially raise the amount of financial support families receive for each child. And Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas's spiritual mentor, had already said that if Shas's demand was not met the party would pull out of the coalition.

Large Jewish families, which make up a substantial part of Shas's traditional, religious constituency, would have been the main benefactors of the child allowance hike. Arab Israelis, who also have larger than average families, would have benefited as well.
But Shas wants elections regardless of whether the larger child allowances are granted.
Shas chairman Eli Yishai said he supported early elections regardless of the new revelations regarding Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's purported misconduct.

"I don't see the option of an alternative government that could be formed," Yishai said. "I prefer advancing the election."

Yishai's associates said he would recommend that the council endorse early elections, but not leaving the government yet. When it is clear what is happening in Kadima and other parties, he will convene the council again to determine the fate of Shas and the coalition.
Yishai has said that he will not enter into a coalition headed by Livni, whom he regards as too left-wing.


At 3:29 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Things are really heating up in Israel. We'll probably see more intrigue and maneuverings in Israel after Shabbat. There's no doubt though, that Ehud Olmert's days are numbered and he may be looking for a way out without looking he was pushed into quitting like Nixon was in America over Watergate.


Post a Comment

<< Home