After PM calls elections, political wooing begins

Ramon, Itzik both seek out Olmert in attempt to oust PM; Livni, Ramon contemplate forming new party for broad center-left bloc.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER Ehud Olmert in court 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
FORMER PRIME MINISTER Ehud Olmert in court 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Wooing and power plays began to emerge in the political arena on Wednesday, less than a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced early elections. Among the speculation was a possible return to politics by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who some believe could revitalize a fragmented and shrinking Left.
Speaking with Army Radio Wednesday morning, former Kadima minister Haim Ramon said he is in discussions with former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni about the formation of a new political party. He added, however, that Olmert has not yet made a decision on whether to return to politics.
Confirming he is speaking with a number of politicians about populating a party list, Ramon said that the head of the potential party will be chosen based on their chance of replacing Netanyahu.
MK Dalia Itzik (Kadima) also said on Wednesday she would like to see Olmert return to politics - in contrast with Likud ministers, who are promoting an initiative to prevent his participation in the upcoming elections.
In an interview with Army Radio, Itzik commented: "I want to see him as prime minister of Israel."
She continued: "At this point we need to put fanaticism and ego to one side, and consider how to team up with each other and to think how to do our best for Israel."
Last week, a source close to Olmert said the former prime minister has not ruled out returning to politics if Netanyahu decides to advance the next general election, a possibility that was realized Wednesday evening.
"I'm speaking with Olmert, who of course hasn't made his decision... I'm talking to him," Ramon added.
The potential new party would attempt to form a bloc of parties that would run together, including Kadima and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid.
Ramon discounted Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz as the head of such a bloc, saying "I think Mofaz removed himself from being a possibility" when he joined Netanyahu's coalition.
"As far as I'm concerned, Netanyahu will be replaced," Ramon said. "We won't make the same mistake that Mofaz made."
Olmert was cleared of most of the charges against him in three of four corruption cases, and his conviction for breach of trust is not expected to be a legal obstacle to running.
He is still standing trial on bribery charges in the Holyland scandal, but his lawyers believe the prosecution’s case against him is weak.
“There is a lot of pressure on him to run,” a source close to the former prime minister said.
“He has not decided or taken any steps. But he is very upset at the way Netanyahu has handled relations with the United States and the Iranian and Palestinian issues, and he is concerned about what could happen with four more years of Netanyahu in power.”
Livni last week rebuffed overtures from Mofaz, who ousted her as chairwoman of Kadima, to rejoin the party.
Earlier last week, Channel 10 reported that Livni met with former Interior Minister and senior Shinui member Avraham Poraz to discuss the possibility of using his Hetz (Arrow) party in the next election.
Poraz founded Hetz in 2006, when he and 10 other MKs broke off from Shinui.
If Livni revives Hetz, she will save herself the bureaucratic headache of registering a new party. In addition, new parties may spend only NIS 13 million on an election campaign, but Livni will be able to increase the budget if she takes over Hetz.