Delay in cross-examination gives PM political breathing space

Tuesday's decision to allow Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's attorneys to wait until July 17 to cross-examine New York financier Morris Talansky at the Jerusalem District Court gives the prime minister much-needed political breathing space, Kadima sources close to Olmert said Tuesday. Olmert's associates had feared the momentum from the Talansky investigation could snowball into a public outcry for the prime minister's resignation. Now they predicted that the delay in the continuation of Talansky's testimony would put a spoke in the wheels of Olmert's opponents. "As long as the legal process continues, the MKs will have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is innocent until proven guilty," a Kadima MK close to Olmert said. Opposition lawmakers from across the political spectrum called on Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to act against Olmert in the wake of Talansky's testimony on Tuesday. "Talansky's grave statements reinforce the necessity for Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to obligate the prime minister to suspend himself," Meretz faction chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said. "It is absurd that a man with such a heavy shadow hanging over himself continues to handle matters of state, especially at such a sensitive time." Likud MK Limor Livnat added that "if anyone still had doubts that Olmert has to go home and that we need new elections, Talansky's testimony proved it." Officials close to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni declined to comment on the political ramifications of Talansky's testimony. But an associate of Labor chairman Ehud Barak said the Talansky scandal reinforced the decision to make "clean governance" a central issue of his campaign for the premiership. "Talansky's testimony certainly did not help Olmert or make anyone feel too good about his future," an Olmert opponent said.