Olmert, Livni set to announce political future

Ministers have edge in Likud primary; Channel 2 poll: 70% of public opposes stopping Operation Pillar of Defense.

Olmert and Livni 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Olmert and Livni 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Minutes after the cease-fire took effect on Wednesday night, ending Operation Pillar of Defense, politicians ended their own cease-fire in which they refrained from attacking each other as long as the fighting was going on.
The election campaign that was put on hiatus during the operation was already back in high gear late Wednesday.
A source who met recently with Ehud Olmert said former prime minister had made it clear that he does not intend to run in the January 22 general election.
Olmert’s associates said he would reveal his decision as early as Thursday and no later than Sunday. He will decide first thing in the morning Thursday when and how to deliver his message about his political future.
“He will end the speculation and respond to what has happened in the Gaza Strip,” a source close to Olmert said.
A decision by Olmert to sit out the race could pave the way for his successor at the helm of Kadima, Tzipi Livni, to make a political comeback.
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MKs who have spoken to her recently said she was itching to announce her return to politics. She declined to reveal her plans in an interview with Channel 2 on Wednesday night, but lawmakers said she could announce her political future as early as Thursday.
Livni became the first politician to criticize the Gaza armistice when she said in the interview that Israel had received much more leeway from the international community for Operation Cast Lead nearly four years ago when Kadima was in power.
She warned that the next confrontation with Gaza would be more violent if Netanyahu failed to immediately restart peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Livni mocked Netanyahu for claiming before he was elected in 2009 that he would topple Hamas, and her associates made a point of circulating a quote from him.
“Tzipi Livni and the Kadima government stopped the IDF before it finished the job,” Netanyahu said in January 2009. “We will continue the work. We will ensure that the Hamas reign of terror will collapse.”
A poll taken by Channel 2 before the cease-fire was finalized found that 70 percent of the public opposed the agreement and just 24% supported it. When asked whether they thought it would endure, only 7% of respondents said it would last long-term.
Likud ministers and MKs were careful not to criticize Netanyahu on Wednesday night, due to Sunday’s Likud primary in which the prime minister has sway over the voters. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz reportedly opposed the cease-fire in deliberations of the inner cabinet, but his associates said he did not intend to make his opposition public.
Activists in Likud branches in the South were much more vocal with their criticism, saying that they were very disappointed in Netanyahu.
Likud activist Eli Cornfeld, who lives in Ashkelon, said he was shocked the prime minister did not do more to restore Israeli deterrence.
“Netanyahu misled millions of people into thinking he would stop the Hamas from firing at us,” Cornfeld said. “The prime minister cannot outsource our security to the president of Egypt who does not even want us to exist.
Bibi [Netanyahu] does not stand up to any pressure. I am sorry to say that he let Hamas win.”
Cornfeld said Netanyahu should delay the primary, because it will still be dangerous to wait in line to vote.
MKs in Likud said the week lost from campaigning during the operation hurt their efforts to unseat ministers and win the top slots on the Likud candidates list away from them.
“We had to cancel all our political events during the operation, but the ministers went from one TV studio to the next and spoke directly to the voters in the primary,” MK Danny Danon said.