Tells 'Post' that party will be prepared if Winograd calls on Olmert to resign.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN, REBECCA ANNA STOIL
While Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Washington hearing from US President George W. Bush that he is "a strong leader," his comrade in Kadima, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, said Kadima must be prepared to move on without him if necessary.
Dichter told The Jerusalem Post in an interview at his office in the capital that he did not believe the Winograd Committee would rule that Olmert could not continue as prime minister, but he said Kadima would be ready if such a scenario took place.
"If the Winograd Committee says the prime minister or another minister cannot continue in his position, I cannot see a situation in which the prime minister or the relevant minister would continue in his position," Dichter said.
Asked whether anyone in Kadima is ready now to replace Olmert - especially after Shimon Peres has been elected president - Dichter answered, "Kadima is more than one man. Kadima is more than just Ehud Olmert."
"Kadima has a vice premier in Tzipi Livni who is fulfilling her role in every way for the time being. Then there are other leaders at the top of Kadima and we would have to choose one if, God forbid, we are asked to decide who would lead Kadima."
Dichter said the party's top leaders under Olmert were no less worthy than the heads of Likud and Labor, former prime ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak.
"It's incorrect to present Kadima as a herd with just one shepherd," Dichter said. "There are several senior people in Kadima, so if we stand before a reality in which due to Winograd or another reason, the prime minister is not able to continue serving, we will decide who will be the man who will lead Kadima and the government until the elections in 2010.
"This issue was also on our agenda before the interim Winograd Report came out. Naturally we all considered all the possible scenarios. You also consider an extreme scenario, and you have to ask yourself what happens then. Not that it's the most likely scenario, but you have to be ready just in case it happens, God forbid, so you won't be left with shoket shvura" - meaning a hopeless situation.
Dichter reiterated his office's denial that after the interim Winograd Report was released on April 30, he and other Kadima leaders met behind Olmert's back to consider how to replace him.
"When you look at the possibilities, you cannot help but ask what Kadima would do if the interim report had said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could not continue to serve as prime minister," Dichter said.
"It's a harsh scenario, but we have to give ourselves answers to harsh scenarios. When you plan in a party [for the worst-case scenario] we sat, we talked among ourselves, and I think that if the worst [had] come true, we could have found a solution for the leadership of the country and Kadima. To our joy, that's not what happened."
Officials close to Olmert declined to respond to Dichter's comments.
The full interview with Dichter will be published in the Frontlines section of Friday's Jerusalem Post.
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