Kadima presses Olmert to leave PMO

Sheetrit tells 'Post' prime minister should "give primary winner a chance," especially if indicted.

September 8, 2008 23:36
2 minute read.
Kadima presses Olmert to leave PMO

Olmert worried 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced on July 30 that he would resign the day after the Kadima primary, but Kadima leadership candidates and their loyalists said Monday that Olmert must go a step further and leave the Prime Minister's Office. By law, if Olmert resigned, he would remain prime minister of a caretaker government until a new government was formed, which might not happen until after a general election in spring 2009. The candidates and their associates said Olmert must go much sooner, even if the Kadima primary's victor is unable to form a government. "If a new government is not formed, the prime minister should give a chance to whoever won the Kadima primary to replace him, especially if there is an indictment from the attorney-general," Kadima leadership candidate Meir Sheetrit told The Jerusalem Post. Were Olmert to declare that he was incapable of governing and suspend himself, he would automatically be succeeded by his vice prime minister, who is currently Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, but the other candidates and their associates said they would demand the title if they won. "If he does suspend himself, then the person who takes over should be the person who won and not the person who holds the title today," Sheetrit said. A supporter of Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz in the Kadima faction said it would "be very natural that the vice prime minister title be handed over after the primary." But the MK expressed confidence that Mofaz could form a government and become prime minister long before Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz decided whether to indict Olmert. Mofaz himself expressed sympathy for Olmert following the police's decision to recommend that he be indicted. "This is a difficult day for all of us, but we have to wait for the attorney-general to make his decision," Mofaz told reporters on the campaign trail. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said there was "no reason for Olmert to suspend himself at this stage." Sources close to him said all the questions about how the Kadima victor could become prime minister without forming a government were irrelevant. "Whoever wins will be able to form a government in the time allotted by law," a Dichter associate said. "Replacement of the Kadima chairman is under way and soon a new government will be formed by the new chairman. We have full confidence that the Knesset does not want to go to elections, especially not Labor and Shas." A Livni associate dismissed speculation on her losing her title of vice prime minister, saying that "first of all she is going to win" and that even if she did not, the Knesset would not vote to take away her title. "Tzipi started the process and was up front that Olmert had to be replaced before the police said anything," the Livni associate said. "He will stay prime minister only if a government cannot be formed but the chances of forming a government are increasing every day." Livni herself added at a rally in Kfar Aza that "it is my obligation to exhaust every possibility to maintain stability and form a government."

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