Likud hits Olmert ahead of comeback decision

Steinitz: PM's friendship with Adelson gave impression he backed Romney; Olmert vows to be active in changing government.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor on Saturday took on former prime minister Ehud Olmert as he deliberates on his political future.
According to Meridor, though it would be legal for Olmert to pursue the premiership, there should be a loftier moral norm.
“I’m not Olmert’s adviser, but in my opinion it is not appropriate, and if he behaves wisely, he will not run [in the upcoming election],” Meridor said on Channel 2’s Meet the Press. “I don’t think a person in his [legal] situation should run in an election. Even if it is permitted, I think it’s inappropriate.”
Meridor added that the Israeli public wants leaders with integrity.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said US billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s financial contributions to the campaign of presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave the false impression that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu interfered in the US elections on the side of the Republican.
“We refrained from interfering in the democratic process in the United States,” Steinitz said at a cultural event in Beersheba.
“The claim is baseless. Because Sheldon Adelson contributed money to Romney, and he is also a friend of the prime minister, they started to claim it was Israeli interference,” he added.
Steinitz attacked Ehud Olmert for claiming Netanyahu took Romney’s side in the election, accusing the former prime minister of being “irresponsible” and causing damage to the relationship between Israel and the US.
Following US President Barack Obama’s reelection on Tuesday night, Olmert told Jewish community leaders in New York that “the prime minister has a right to prefer one candidate over another, but it would be better, obviously if he kept it to himself. What took place this time was a breaking of all the rules, when our prime minister intervened in the US elections in the name of an American billionaire,” a reference to Adelson.
“Netanyahu’s behavior in recent months brings up the question if Netanyahu has a friend in the White House, and I’m not sure,” Olmert said.
“This could be very critical in certain areas.”
On Friday, Olmert told the San Francisco Jewish Federation that he will be “very active in changing the current Israeli government,” hinting at a possible political comeback.
Olmert’s associates have said that he would decide on his political future following the US election, and that Obama’s reelection is encouraging to the former prime minister. He is expected to make an announcement soon after he returns to Israel, sometime after Thursday.
Olmert’s political prospects encountered new challenges on Wednesday night when the State Attorney’s Office filed a Supreme Court appeal against the acquittals and the light sentence he received over corruption charges.
If the state wins at the Supreme Court level, Olmert could be convicted of harsher crimes than he was at trial, and could even end up going to jail.
Since Obama’s reelection, Netanyahu has gone out of his way to dispel the notion that he strained ties with Israel’s most important ally, which has become a political liability at home.
“The alliance between Israel and the United States is strong. We have a strategic partnership. We have cooperation in all areas, but especially in the security sphere; there, cooperation is deep, broad and fundamental,” Netanyahu said on Thursday. “One of the foundations of our security is the brave partnership between us and the United States.”
On Wednesday, the prime minister hosted US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro in his Jerusalem office to pledge his support for Obama.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.