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Vice Premier Shimon Peres rallied to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's defense Saturday, rejecting the assertion that the current government was not among the "country's greatest."
Peres said that as an Israeli citizen and as a member of the Knesset, he had faith in Olmert, and described him as "one of the best prime ministers that there has been" when he spoke to Israel Radio Saturday.
Peres also said that Likud Leader Binyamin Netanyahu had "no chance" of trying to set up his own coalition of 61 MKs to establish his own government.
On Thursday, Kadima members came out for a show of unity at a Petah Tikva event, but were surprised when Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni did not mention the prime minister in her address.
Kadima officials slammed Livni, saying that now was the time for "party unity" and not "petty personal considerations." One Kadima MK said that it was clear that Livni had made the speech with only her political future in mind.
"We all knew that we were there at a crucial time, and that we were there to maintain a party line, a unity. She broke with that unity," said the MK.
The other MKs who spoke Thursday addressed Olmert by name and emphasized their support for him. Livni focused her speech on Kadima's long- term goals and spoke about the importance of the party remaining united.
"To those who anticipate a split in the party, we have to give a short answer: We are staying together," said Livni, after Olmert had pledged to serve the full four years of his term, even as he told party members in Petah Tikva: "I'm not a popular prime minister."
By law, should Olmert resign, Livni would become prime minister. The party could then rally around her or choose to hold primaries.
Meanwhile, MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) called for immediate new elections, saying that Olmert no longer had the mandate to lead.
"My preference and the preference of the Israeli public, according to every survey, is to go to elections," said Shalom. "I think it is the right think to do, I believe that we mustn't give up and I believe that we, together with a non-governmental organization, need to demonstrate the need to once again turn to the public."
Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on the Likud to join an emergency government led by Olmert. "Even if the Likud gets 40 mandates, it is clear that the following day, 30 MKs will rise up against Netanyahu and the phenomena of camps and rebels will return," said Lieberman.
"We need an emergency national government at this moment and not a continuation of political struggles and fruitless fighting," Army Radio reported.
Shalom emphasized that in is opinion, he was the right man to lead the Likud in the new elections, and not Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu.
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