Labor leadership candidate MK Ami Ayalon called on Tuesday for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign, saying that the move would restore the public's faith in the political leadership. "[Israeli leaders must] take responsibility and resign," Ayalon said in a speech given at a convention of the Movement for Quality Government in Jerusalem on Tuesday. "Any child can see that [they] have failed." The crowd applauded Ayalon's statement, which is expected to be received less favorably by Olmert and his staff, who will have to decide how to fill the defense portfolio if Ayalon wins Tuesday's labor primary runoff against Ehud Barak. Ayalon also stated that corruption should be fought forcibly and with the full support of all Israel's legal institutions, including the High Court of Justice, and Olmert's personal nemesis, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
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When asked why he was attending the event on a day when he should have been out campaigning, Ayalon replied, "What is happening here has more importance - and voters are looking at what is happening here."
Criticizing his opponent in the Labor race, former prime minister Ehud Barak, Ayalon said that "leadership that wishes to seize power without offering its opinion is hollow and depends on political spins in an improper way."
Ayalon and Barak both cast their votes by noon on Tuesday as remaining party members throughout the country arrived at voting stations to choose their preferred party leader.
Twenty percent of eligible kibbutz residents, 14% of Arab voters, 14% of voters from moshavim, 12% of the party's Druse members and 18% of Tel Aviv voters had cast their votes by 1 p.m.
As Barak prepared to cast his vote in Kfar Saba, he asked Labor members to look into themselves before making a decision. "I ask all voters to remember and to think who you want at a time of war and who will have the strength to make peace," added Barak.
Ayalon, who appeared relaxed as he entered the voting station in Geva Carmel, explained that he did not regret the way in which he chose to handle his campaign for the second running of the primaries. "I have no second thoughts on joining forces with Amir Peretz," he said.
"I don't know which poll to address, but obviously I liked those which supported me," Ayalon said, referring to polls conducted on Monday, the majority of which predicted a tight race between the two contenders.
Outgoing Labor chair Amir Peretz, who arrived early to his hometown of Sderot to cast his vote, used the opportunity to warn Palestinians against continued rocket fire into Israel. A western Negev resident was wounded on Monday morning after two Kassams were fired from the Gaza Strip.
As of 4:00 p.m., 32.5% of Labor's 103,498 members cast their votes at stations throughout the country. The stations will close at 9 p.m. with results not expected until 1 a.m. All three television networks will air exit polls at 9 p.m. predicting the winner. Most polls show Ayalon and Barak running neck and neck.