Analysis: Olmert's options

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 2, 2007 00:26
2 minute read.

 
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Resign as soon as possible: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not make a hasty decision to resign after the Winograd Committee's report criticized him for such behavior during the Second Lebanon War. But if Thursday's demonstration attracts an unexpected number of people and the rebellions against him continue to gain strength, he could resign as early as next week. Olmert's resignation would set off a leadership battle in Kadima between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit and possibly Vice Premier Shimon Peres. The winner of the race would become prime minister, pending the approval of the coalition partners and Acting President Dalia Itzik.

  • Coordinate his departure: Many of Olmert's political allies have realized that he would not be able to remain in office following the Winograd Report's severe condemnation. They have already begun talking to Olmert's rivals about softening the blow and negotiating a time for the prime minister to leave "respectfully." Olmert wants to ensure that a general election would not be held that could bring his nemesis, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, to power. He also would prefer that Livni not take over the leadership of Kadima. If he negotiates a time for his departure, Olmert could last until after a leadership race in Kadima and the choice of a new prime minister by Itzik and the coalition factions.
  • Hold on for the final report: Olmert could decide to fight for his political survival - and with the right moves he could succeed, at least until the July publication of the final Winograd report, which is expected to be even more critical. If he makes it until then, he could take advantage of the Knesset's summer recess to remain prime minister until after the holidays end in October. That would enable Olmert to last in office longer than former prime minister Ehud Barak and not go down in history as Israel's shortest-serving leader.
  • Kadima collapses, causing elections: Efforts to overthrow Olmert and divisions over who should succeed him could cause a split in Kadima. A third of Kadima could split from the party and return to the Likud. The chance of Netanyahu and his 12-man Likud faction forming a new government with the current Knesset is extremely unlikely. Netanyahu would prefer to initiate an election where his party could return to its former strength of 40 seats.
  • Mazuz and Shendar swoop in: The conventional wisdom before the Winograd Report's release was that Olmert would be brought down not by political pressure but by his legal woes. With the multiplicity of investigations against him, it was likely that one of them would eventually be deemed incriminating enough for Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to force Olmert to quit. State Attorney Eran Shendar's August departure could expedite investigations involving the Finance Ministry (which he handles due to a conflict of interest for Mazuz). If Olmert tries to run away from the post-Winograd executioners until the fall, the law could still catch up with him.

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