Kadima, Labor MKs prefer Ramon as PM

Barak associates: Should Olmert resign, Labor chief would rather Ramon take over as Livni more of a threat.

haim ramon 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
haim ramon 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A fateful kiss led to his departure from the Justice Ministry, but a political kiss of death for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could lead Vice Premier Haim Ramon to the Prime Minister's Office, Kadima and Labor officials speculated Tuesday. Officials in both parties have discussed the possibility of Olmert deciding to leave his office after the most serious allegations against him are revealed in the Morris Talansky affair. Labor chairman Ehud Barak reportedly said in private conversations that he expected Olmert's tenure to end soon. If Olmert were to suspend himself, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would take over for him due to her title of vice prime minister, the same title that allowed Olmert to take over for former prime minister Ariel Sharon after his stroke. But, if Olmert would instead decide to resign and President Shimon Peres would not find a candidate who can form a new government with the current Knesset, a 90-day election period would begin. During that time, Olmert would remain caretaker prime minister of a transition government. However, Kadima and Labor officials speculated about a third possibility whereby Olmert could resign and then decline to remain prime minister. According to Basic Law: The Government, clause 30C, Olmert could then ask the cabinet to instead designate another minister who is an MK from his faction to be interim prime minister until the formation of a new government after the election. In such a scenario, it is likely that Olmert would recommend Ramon and not Livni. The official reason he would give would be to not interfere with a Kadima leadership race in which she would be a candidate and Ramon would not - but the unofficial reason would be the enmity between Olmert and Livni. Sources close to Barak said on Monday that the Labor leader would prefer Ramon to Livni, because he is concerned about her using the premiership to build herself up politically ahead of a race in which she would run against him and Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu for prime minister if she is elected Kadima leader. "Barak's relationship with Ramon is bad, but at least [Ramon] doesn't threaten him like [Livni] does," a Barak associate said. An Israel Radio poll published last week found that Labor voters preferred Livni to Barak in a potential race for the premiership. A source close to Olmert dismissed the idea of Ramon becoming interim prime minister as "baseless speculation." Legally, Ramon is not prevented from serving in any office, because his sexual harassment conviction for kissing a soldier in the Prime Minister's Office was deemed not to have involved moral turpitude. Adi Dagan, a spokeswoman for the Coalition of Women for Peace, which led the campaign against Ramon's return to politics after his sexual harassment conviction, said her organization would fight to prevent Ramon from becoming prime minister. "I can't imagine a situation more grotesque than one prime minister quitting because of allegations of corruption and him being replaced by a man convicted of sexual harassment," Dagan said. "We would protest and remind the public what Ramon wants it to forget. After we finally rid ourselves of a president accused of sex crimes, it would be a very sad message if we get a convicted sex offender as interim prime minister."