(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced sharp criticism over the weekend from two political foes inside his Kadima Party, coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki and Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit.
The criticism showed that members of Olmert's party felt freer than they had in the past to speak their mind about a prime minister who had led their party to its tailspin in the polls.
"I understand the feelings in the public that Israel is in the midst of the worst leadership crisis since its inception," Yitzhaki said in a speech on Saturday in Beersheba. "It will take time until we succeed in bringing forth a leader whom the public could trust and support."
Yitzhaki said Olmert was the best possible candidate for prime minister at the time of last year's election, leading the crowd to believe that Yitzhaki had a better candidate now. But he later said he considered Olmert "the most fitting man to be prime minister at this time."
In sizing up the potential leaders of other parties, Yitzhaki said that Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu was not the solution to the dearth of leadership. He surprised the crowd by advising Labor members to vote for MK Ami Ayalon in the May 28 party leadership race.
Yitzhaki also criticized the so-called Peres bill, which is intended to aid the candidacy of Olmert's candidate for president, Vice Premier Shimon Peres. Yitzhaki in the past expressed support for Peres's main rival for the presidency, Likud MK Reuven Rivlin.
Sheetrit also openly criticized Olmert in weekend interviews with Channel 2 and Yediot Aharonot. In both interviews, he accused Olmert of betraying a promise to him to keep him in the Justice portfolio if former minister Haim Ramon did not return to the post.
"We thought we were building a party that the public could have faith in and in which ministers would be appointed for their skills and not their connections," Sheetrit told Channel 2.
In the Yediot interview, Sheetrit predicted that new Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann would have a difficult time advancing his agenda because he is a professor and "neither a manager nor a politician." Sheetrit said he had not decided whether to challenge Olmert for the Kadima leadership but he ruled out a return to the Likud. He did not have anything positive to say about Olmert but he did for his former political ally, Netanyahu.
"He has gained experience," Sheetrit said. "I worked with him in the Finance Ministry and he was different than who he was when he was prime minister. I would not scoff at him. He learned a lot as finance minister and opposition leader."
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