Kadima MKs question staying power of'serially investigated' PM

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 24, 2007 23:38
2 minute read.

MKs in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition questioned his ability to lead the country on Monday after Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz announced the opening of yet another criminal probe against him. Kadima and Labor lawmakers said the new investigation could cause them to reconsider maintaining a long-term partnership with the prime minister. But they said that if Olmert could make through the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War, he would easily survive the current scandal. "It's absolutely horrible that we have a prime minister with so many investigations," Kadima MK Marina Solodkin said. "It's very difficult to lead the nation at such an important, historic time and to fight Hamas when he is fighting the investigations. But according to the law, it's his decision when and if he should quit." Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines said the prime minister had become a "serial investigatee" and the heavy cloud hanging over him that made it difficult for him to function. Paz-Pines's Labor colleague, MK Shelly Yacimovich, called on Olmert to quit and to work to prove his innocence as a regular citizen. Nevertheless, Olmert took steps to strengthen the coalition on Monday. Mazuz made his announcement as Olmert was toasting the Knesset's approval of Labor's Ami Ayalon as minister-without-portfolio, who until recently had been a critic of corruption in the Prime Minister's Office. The prime minister met with Kadima MK Eli Aflalo on Monday night and offered him the posts of coalition and Kadima faction chairman that had been vacant since Avigdor Yitzhaki gave up the titles in May. Olmert also met with MK David Tal (Kadima), who he is expected to appoint to head the Knesset House Committee. Olmert is expected to receive a political boost when Yitzhaki, one of his fiercest foes, quits the Knesset, something that Yitzhaki said would happen in November. Yitzhaki said his hopes of forcing Olmert to quit had faded in light of the prime minister's recent rise in popularity and Ayalon's decision to join the cabinet. However Kadima MK Shlomo Breznitz, who is a longtime friend of Olmert, will hand his resignation to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik on Tuesday. Breznitz, 71, has decided to return to academia and writing books. He will be replaced in the legislature by Kadima director-general Yohanan Plesner, another Olmert ally. Four Kadima MKs met Monday night at the home of Jerusalem city council opposition leader Nir Barkat and decided together with him to start a campaign inside the party to preserve a united Jerusalem. The initiative comes in response to Vice Premier Haim Ramon of Kadima's recent statements in favor of dividing Jerusalem. Likud MK Yuli Edelstein said Olmert's and Ramon's plans to divide the capital were the result of the legal pressure on the prime minister. Edelstein called on Shas and Israel Beiteinu to leave the government "before Olmert starts selling out all our strategic assets." "Now that more investigations have been opened, Olmert is sure to offer more concessions in an effort to etrogize [protect] himself," Edelstein said. Knesset State Control Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) said that no country outside the Third World could have a prime minister who was the subject of so many investigations. "Instead of focusing on offering gestures to the Palestinians and releasing terrorists, the prime minister should wish the inhabitants of Israel 'Happy New Year' and suspend himself," Orlev said.


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