In a cross between Monty Python (I’m not dead yet! Oh Don’t be a spoiled sport) and Julius Caesar (Et. Tu Brute) Ehud Olmert’s friends and enemies are jockeying over succeeding him as Prime Minister:
Behind the scenes and [behind]its leader’s back, Kadima’s coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki scurried around the ranks, front man for one of the key contenders for the succession, foreign minister Tzipi Livni.
The prime minister’s other deserters included vice premier Shimon Peres, Israel Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman and most of Labor, including the three contenders for the party leadership, former PM Ehud Barak, Ami Ayalon and Ophir Pines-Paz. That was only the first wave to batter against Olmert’s defenses.
Another wave threatened Thursday, April 3: The Knesset has been called into emergency session to consider the Winograd report; so too has the ruling Kadima faction. Foreign minister Tzipi Livni has held silent so far but is expected to join the chorus demanding that Olmert step down.
Hundreds of thousands of Israeli demonstrators are expected to tell him to go home at a mass rally in Tel Aviv Thursday night, May 3, called by the reservists’ movement and bereaved families. Residents of the southern towns of Sderot and Beersheba and Haifa in the north are slogging on foot to join Thursday’s rally, amid impromptu protest demonstrations.
The coalition chairman’s talks with government factions Tuesday not only canvassed support for a mutiny against the prime minister, but also explored which Kadima candidate could draw enough support to hold the government together. Above all, the ruling party wants to avoid a general election little more than a year after it was voted into office.
The foreign minister’s candidacy for prime minister is problematic. She is not popular with Labor or the ultra-religious Shas, two members of the government coalition.Yitzhaki’s efforts to oust Olmert could therefore lead to Kadima’s candidate ending up as Shimon Peres or transport minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister, rather than the foreign minister.
Peres is quietly working three channels:
- First, he is selling himself to the second rank in Kadima and Labor as the only candidate capable of preserving national unity at a time of grave danger. His lobbyists also argue that because he is an octogenarian, he will not stay long and is therefore the ideal stabilizing agent to carry the country through the crisis of transition.
- Second, he has reached out the discredited defense minister, Labor leader Amir Peretz, asking for his support in return for a helping hand in the Labor leadership primaries at the end of the month.
- Third, his agents are in secret talks with the Israel Beitenu leader, Avigdor Lieberman, warning him that if the government falls, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu will be reinstated in the prime minister’s office.
The least active candidate and possibly the best qualified for handling a security emergency is Shaul Mofaz, former defense minister and chief of staff. He would need the backing of Shas and Israeli Beitenu to beat the other contenders to the post.
The third party undermining Olmert on the quiet is Ehud Barak. DEBKAfile sources report that it was he who signaled Eytan Kabel to quit the Olmert government and thus set off the wave of political turbulence which has pinnjed the prime minister to the wall.
The fourth of Olmert’s active opponents is Lieberman. He discreetly sparked a revolt in Kadima by ordering two Russian representative lawmakers, Marina Solodkin and Mikhail Nudelman, to hoist the flag of mutiny in the ruling party and call on its leader to quit.
With each passing moment it seems that the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert continues to grow. Even Olmert has been quoted as saying “I am not convinced that I will succeed in getting through this,” Olmert said. “But if I go, there will be no coalition left to any of my successors.” (Jpost)
According to Ynet News Olmert plans to hang on till the summer when the full report is released. If the commission decides to “chop heads”, they will most likely wait until the summer when the final part of the Winograd report on the failures of the Second Lebanon War is due for publication, the source added.If the Winograd Commission tells Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign, he will cooperate with the request, a source close to the prime minister told Ynet Wednesday.
The Reports of moves against Olmert are coming fast and furious :
- PEACE WITH HONOR ? Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s supporters in Kadima understand how difficult his situation is in the wake of the scathing report on his conduct during the Second Lebanon War, and are trying to find him an honorable way out.Senior party members plan to offer him a number of alternatives which will allow him to resign in an honorable way in a number of months. The officials told Ynet on Tuesday that any attempts to topple Olmert would not succeed.
- The information on the secret meetings came from a senior source from within the Kadima faction.Despite promises made by Livni’s aides on Monday that she would not try to topple Prime Minister Ehud Olmert following the Winograd report, Olmert’s aides said that the foreign minister has been secretly meeting with Kadima MKs to discuss the possibility of replacing him. (Ynet)
- Coalition Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki spoke with several members of the Kadima party on Tuesday, regarding the future of the party’s leardership – namely the replacement of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in light of the Winograd report on the Second Lebanon War. Channel 2 reported that almost half of the Kadima faction supports ousting Olmert.(Jpost) During the Tuesday discussions, Yitzhaki named Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as the preferred heir to Olmert, which the MKs said they understood to mean that the move had been coordinated with her. (Ha’aretz)
- Comments from Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also showed her doubting Olmert’s ability to remain in office, Channel 10 reported. According to the report, Livni told her associates that she thought Olmert should resign from his position. In addition, the report stated that Livni planned political action, but what kind of action remained uncertain.(Jpost)
- In this respect, Kadima MKs are expected to call on Olmert to quit on Thursday during a special Knesset meeting on the Winograd report, Channel 2 reported.Earlier on Tuesday Kadima MK Marina Solodkin declared that PM Olmert “must go home,” making her the first member of the party to speak out openly in favor of the prime minister’s resignation since the publication of the report. (Jpost)
- MK Michael Nudelman (Kadima) told Ynet that “in a western country, after such a report, there would be no doubt that the prime minister must resign, but here we have a different tradition – we are country of chaos. “Olmert is not the only one to blame, but I think he will have to resign soon. He will not be able to face the pressure from the public and the public,” MK Nudelman said.
- Labor’s Eytan Kabel (who resigned this morning) urges Labor leadership hopeful Ehud Barak against joining the Olmert government to replace Peretz as defense minister.Two more contestants for the Labor leadership, Ami Ayalon and Paz Pines, joined the chorus calling for the prime minister to step down, thereby splitting their party. Debka
- I am also hearing from inside sources that there is also a rumor of a surprise Prime Minister Candidate–SHIMON PERES!
- The chair of the Meretz faction, MK Zahava Gal-On, accused Olmert of cowardice Tuesday for declining to address the plenum. “Olmert, who gave boastful and vain speeches to the plenum, is scared of dealing with criticism over the colossal failure for which he is responsible,” she said. (Ha’aretz)
- MK Limor Livnat of Likud blasted the move as “an acute cheapening of the highest institution of Israeli democracy.” She said that Olmert believed that it is possible to run a country by handing videotaped footage to television channels, a reference to his televised address the night before. (Ha’aretz)“Ehud is running away again,” Livnat said. “It is a grievous flight from responsibility and democracy, and he will pay a further price for this.”
- Impromptu popular protests are springing up ahead of the mass rally, which has been called by the reservists’ movement and bereaved families in Tel Aviv Thursday night, May 3, under the slogan: Olmert Go Home!. Residents of the southern towns of Sderot and Beersheba have set out on foot to join the rally.Debka
- Many organizations are expected to participate in the rally, setting out on foot from all parts of the country to meet at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Confirmed groups include Tafnit, Family Forum for bereaved families, the reservists’ protest movement, student organizations, quality government advocacy groups, the Yesha Council of settlements and representatives of frontier communities in northern and southern Israel. This will be a “coalition of organizations united behind the opinion that the prime minister and the defense minister should resign, regardless of their political position. We don’t care if they are orange, blue or green,” organizers said, alluding to the “orange” anti-disengagement camp and the “blue” disengagement supporters.
- Pressure is building on Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu to quit government.MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union-NRP) also called on Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu to withdraw from the government. “Only the departure of those two parties will lead to the dissolution of Kadima and the establishment of a national emergency government,” Hendel said. (Israel National News)
- In a televised interview Monday night, Likud MK Gilad Erdan reminded the Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu representatives that their voters did not elect them to sit in a government of failed leadership such as that of Ehud Olmert. “The government failed. It caused great political and military damage to the country,” said MK Erdan, “And what the people need now is an election campaign that will determine who will lead the state of Israel at this critical time”(Israel National News)
- MK Zahava Gal’on (Meretz) called on all government ministers, across the board, to tender their resignations. Praising Labor MK Eitan Cabel’s resignation from his post as Minister without Portfolio, Gal’on said, “The rest of his colleagues in the government who pushed for the war, who also have the burden of failure on their shoulders, should show integrity, take responsibility, and follow in his footsteps.”(Israel National News)
I will update this page as additional news comes in.