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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LIVEBLOG - Barak to Olmert: 'Enough is enough' - VIDEO ADDED

Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert had a lengthy private meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at Olmert's request this morning immediately after the cabinet meeting. We were told that Barak would hold a press conference at 1:30 Wednesday afternoon at which he would demand that Olmert resign or suspend himself as Prime Minister, or that Kadima Achora replace Ehud Olmert as head of the party or that Barak will resign and take Labor out of the government.

Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu met with Shas Chairman Eli Yishai this morning in what may also have been an attempt to pry Shas out of the government.

Labor party chairman Eitan Cabel is attending the press conference with Barak.

Barak spoke first. He said that in light of the situation that has been created and the enemies facing Israel, he does not believe that Olmert can lead the government and deal with his personal problems at the same time. Therefore, he says that Olmert must detach himself from day-to-day management of the government in any way possible - resignation, suspension, etc. Kadima must do a soul-searching and if they remove Olmert, Labor will consider joining them. If not, Labor will work for early elections on an agreed date that is soon. It does not matter whether there is a basis for the suspicions of Olmert. The good of the country demands that he resign. Barak is taking questions.


Barak says that Kadima must act promptly - no deadline. Things must happen soon.

Barak refused to answer questions regarding whether he was suspected of similar offenses (he was but nowhere near as bad and never of putting money into his own pocket), and he was asked why things are different now than a year ago when he demanded that Olmert resign and backed off and he said that it's obvious now that things are different.

He says he's not afraid of elections regardless of what the polls say [and today should help his standing in the polls. CiJ], but he prefers the continued service of the current coalition.

He says that he's not telling Kadima what to do. They have to decide. Any other leader is fine.

Key point: Olmert must detach himself from day-to-day management of the country. End of press conference.

Comment: To date, all of Kadima's senior ministers have been noticeably silent about Olmert's problems. Some have expressed lukewarm support for him. After the press conference, Israel Radio interviewed Ronit Tirosh (not a minister but a senior Kadima MK) and she's outraged at Barak for demanding that Olmert suspend himself.... Life is interesting here.


Israel Radio did a summary after its 2:00 news.

Barak has thrown the ball into Kadima's court but so far none of them are commenting.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Feigele Livni 'accidentally' sat in Olmert's seat in the Knesset hall a short time ago. She felt uncomfortable and got up and moved.

Barak's Labor party rival Ami Ayalon agrees with Barak that Olmert must resign.

Ronit Tirosh of Kadima says Olmert should at least be given time until Morris Talansky's cross-examination (which is July 17 at the insistence of Olmert's lawyers on a delay!).

Limor Livnat of Likud calls for Olmert to resign.

The head of the organization of parents whose children died in the Second Lebanon War points out the sad fact that while Olmert's failures during the Lebanon War were not enough for Barak to demand Olmert's resignation, Olmert's financial crimes are (Mrs. Carl made the same point in a conversation with me and I agree wholeheartedly).

Zevulun Orlev of National Union/National Religious Party said Barak's statement is meaningless because it sets no deadlines and Barak can change his mind tomorrow.

Yisrael Katz on behalf of the Likud says enough is enough and we have to go to elections.

Meretz doesn't want new elections, but an alternate government with the current Knesset with someone other than Olmert at its head.

Israel Radio's political analyst thinks that there will be new elections called by the end of this Knesset session in July.


For those who speak Hebrew, here is Barak's press conference in its entirety (7:21). Sorry, no English translation available yet.


It's important to add here that although I have never read their party rules, Israel Radio is reporting - and it makes sense to me - that Kadima probably has no way to throw Olmert out as its party leader unless it holds primaries, and its leadership may have no means for doing that at this time. In fact, Israel Radio said that Kadima's party constitution was specifically drafted to preclude the possibility of a putsch against a sitting party chairman, particularly one who is Prime Minister. Essentially, Barak's press conference earlier this afternoon was an appeal to Olmert to do the 'right thing.' But as Olmert's 'strategic adviser' Tal Zilberstein noted this morning, Olmert won't even consider resigning because he believes that doing so would constitute an admission of guilt. So unless Barak means to back off (as he did last summer), sometime in June, the Labor party will introduce a bill to disperse the Knesset, which may or may not be accompanied by a bill to vote no confidence in the government and replace Olmert with an agreed candidate (probably Netanyahu) with an agreed date for new elections ninety days later. Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish New Year) starts the night of September 30, and unless Barak backs down, we will almost certainly have new elections before then.


The New York Times has a summary of Talansky's testimony yesterday here. The satellite company they mention is probably the one described here. The billionaire they refer to in the hotel business is probably Sheldon Adelson (who has extensive hotel holdings in Las Vegas). According to Haaretz, Talansky testified yesterday that Adelson slammed down the phone on him despite Olmert's 'recommendation.'


Israel Radio's 6:00 news reports that 'persons close to Olmert' have accused Ehud Barak and Tzippi Feigele Livni of coordinating their actions today, pointing out that they share the same public relations agent (Reuven Adler).


At 2:48 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Kadima's senior echelon is probably waiting to see if Ehud Olmert can rebut Talansky's testimony before making its move. One thing is clear: Olmert's problems have just begun and it will be hard for him to concentrate on his job while waiting to see if he's going to be formally indicted. Israel is now living in the post-Olmert Era.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Talansky's cross-examination is scheduled for July 17. I don't think Barak is willing to wait that long.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - Barak omitted any mention of a deadline. If Olmert is going to be forced out, we'll hear about it soon, since absent pressure, he's not going to step down on its own volition. Although I agree with you and Mrs. Carl and Barak that he should do so promptly.

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


You may want to look at the update I just added to this post. That may be why there's no deadline.


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