Ayalon calls upon Olmert to resign and restore public's faith in leadership

Labor leadership candidate 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 if they failed in a way that is clear to every child," Ayalon said in a speech at a convention of the Movement for Quality Government in Jerusalem's International Convention Center. 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 said corruption should be fought forcibly and with the full support of all of Israel's legal institutions, including the High Court of Justice and Olmert's personal nemesis, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. When asked why he was attending the event on a day when he should have been out campaigning, Ayalon replied, "Voters are looking at what is happening here, which is much more important [than the primary]." Criticizing his opponent in the 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 spin in an improper way." Ayalon started the day by swimming before voting at a polling station in Moshav Geva Carmel in the North. Ayalon, who appeared relaxed as he entered the polling station, said he did not regret joining forces with defeated Labor leader Amir Peretz ahead of the runoff. "I have no second thoughts about joining forces with Amir," he said. "It was the right thing to do, because there is no way for Labor to return to power other than to unite without losing the support of important sectors [that Peretz represents]." Ayalon later visited polling stations in Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. At Ma'agan Michael, he told reporters he was proud to have been raised on a kibbutz with its values. He said the kibbutz movement had "an important role to play in Labor's renewal and the restoration of the country's sanity." Asked whether he was facing a tough day, Ayalon told reporters outside a polling station in Jerusalem's Kiryat Yovel neighborhood: "Campaigning isn't tough. Marching 60 kilometers with 60 kilograms of weight on your back is tough." Ayalon took a break from campaigning and bought two chocolate bars from a local merchant in Kiryat Yovel. He said he bought the chocolate to support a local businessman and so the election would have a sweet finish.