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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced sharp criticism from one of his rivals in Kadima on Wednesday when Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit slammed him for not consulting with his ministers.
Sheetrit, who has served in cabinets led by former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu, said that they, in addition to former prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, consulted with their ministers regularly. He complained about not meeting with Olmert in two months and said other ministers had similar complaints.
"It is problematic that there are so many ministers who have said that Olmert is not acting like a partner," Sheetrit said, listing Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. "The prime minister has to be the first among equals. He has more responsibility than us but we could help him make correct decisions."
Sheetrit said that when he had met Olmert in the past, he had given unsolicited advice about how to handle negotiations with the Palestinians and other diplomatic issues. But he said his communication with the prime minister had fallen drastically since the days of Sharon, whom he said consulted with him about Kadima's formation at least 10 times.
"I don't intend to criticize Olmert," Sheetrit said. "I just want this situation to get fixed, which would help the government and the party." Sheetrit and other Kadima ministers declined to comment on Wednesday about the ongoing investigations of the prime minister and his staff members. Vice Premier Shimon Peres said he "was not aware of any investigation of the prime minister." But ministers did criticize Olmert for not consulting with them before he left to China. On a tour of the North on Tuesday, Mofaz condemned Olmert's handling of the war in Lebanon, saying that neither the security nor the diplomatic goals of the war were met.
Olmert told reporters in China on Wednesday that it was incorrect to say that his relations with Livni had eroded. He said he met with her before leaving to China and that they agreed that the road map was still the only diplomatic plan on Israel's agenda.
Livni, who has expressed an interest in challenging Olmert for the Kadima leadership, submitted a bill to the Knesset on Tuesday that would clarify the laws on how candidates raise money in internal party elections.