(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened the Kadima faction for a festive dinner at his Jerusalem residence on Tuesday in an effort to consolidate the faction under his leadership ahead of next month's release of the final Winograd Report.
In his speech to the faction, he praised his main leadership rival in the party, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and complimented the rest of the faction.
Sources connected to the committee said the report would be published in January.
Diplomatic sources said they expected that the committee would wait to publish the report until after US President George W. Bush leaves the country on January 11.
Olmert's opponents in Kadima said the publishing of the report would be a key opportunity for a political upheaval in the party that they believe would be necessary to ensure Kadima's long-term survival. They said that if the report were especially critical, it could force the upper echelons of the party to take steps to replace Olmert.
"The report will determine Kadima's staying power," MK Marina Solodkin said. "If the party's top leaders again have nothing to say to Olmert, it's the end of the line for Kadima, which will end up like the [defunct] Center Party, Tzomet and Shinui. Without ethical standards, a new party has no right at all to continue to exist."
MK Avigdor Yitzhaki, who failed to overthrow Olmert after the interim Winograd report was published, said he was hopeful he would succeed this time. He said that if the public had seen an alternative to Olmert, he would have been forced out long ago, and it was time for someone to provide that alternative.
"I don't think the politicians will be complacent when the report comes out," Yitzhaki said. "I don't think Labor or Israel Beiteinu will be able to stay in the coalition, and even in Kadima, they will understand that after Winograd, they can't go on this way if they don't want the party to disappear. If that happens, there will be enough momentum to replace Olmert."
But one of the candidates expected to run against Olmert whenever the party's leadership race is held said they did not expect any political turmoil to erupt after Winograd, despite the report's release being delayed to a new calendar year that is inevitably closer to the next general election.
MK Ze'ev Elkin, who participated in previous anti-Olmert efforts, agreed that the prime minister's downfall had not yet arrived.
"Since the committee announced that they wouldn't be making any personal recommendations, I don't think any political shakeup will come out of it," Elkin said. "[Labor chairman Ehud] Barak's recent statements [breaking his promise to remove Labor from the coalition after Winograd] have only reinforced that."