Kadima faction set to pressure Olmert into primary

Head of party's steering committee will convene entire faction to formally decide whether to initiate vote.

olmert poser 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
olmert poser 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert left political turmoil behind when he arrived in Washington Tuesday, but the politicians who are eager to bring him down intend to request his head shortly after his return. Olmert will enjoy relative political quiet during his four-day trip to the US and the few days that follow due to Monday's Shavuot holiday. The long trip back to Israel and the holiday should give Olmert time to decide how to handle the ambush his political adversaries are preparing for him. The head of Kadima's steering committee, MK Tzahi Hanegbi, announced on Tuesday that he would convene the entire Kadima faction next Wednesday to formally decide whether to initiate a primary. Olmert's authorization is necessary to approve such a move. While Olmert has said in closed conversations that he would not stand in the way of primaries, his foes in the party have complained that he has not said anything public about the matter, nor has he given his authorization. They expressed hope that the faction would put enough pressure on Olmert to force him to advance the process that could lead to his departure. "If all the MKs in Kadima say a decision on primaries cannot wait any longer, he will have no choice but to acquiesce," an Olmert opponent in Kadima said. Behind the scenes, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has been meeting with Kadima MKs and urging them to take a stand in favor of primaries during the faction meeting. She has even met with the MKs closest to Olmert, including a meeting Tuesday with Knesset Speaker, Dalia Itzik. Livni has started meeting intensively with Kadima activists and mayors and holding parlor meetings to advance her candidacy to replace Olmert. Livni has made a point of not releasing her schedule to the press and conducting a quiet campaign. By contrast, her main competition, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, has been meeting Kadima activists and mayors regularly for two years. In recent days, he has made a point of remaining in front of television cameras as much as possible. Mofaz visited the Golan Heights on Tuesday to express his support for Israel's continued control of the Golan. The message was intended less for the residents of the region and more for the Kadima members watching at home. "The renewal of the talks is important but the Syrians are not ready yet [for a deal], and they are up to their necks in terror," Mofaz said at the Shalom Vista near Kfar Haruv. "We need to know when they will be interested in real peace. This was my opinion before and it is my opinion now. We can make a deal with Syria without giving up the asset of the Golan Heights." Mofaz even said he would be interested in moving his family to the Golan. The politician's associates said the visit was intended to differentiate Mofaz from Olmert on diplomatic issues as he gets politically closer to the prime minister's position. Polls have shown Mofaz consistently gaining on Livni among Kadima members, but Livni still enjoys a large lead among the public at large. A Geocartographic Institute poll broadcast on Channel 1 Tuesday found that a Livni-led Kadima could win two more seats than the Likud in the next election.