Kadima MKs ask Olmert to fire Kadima Dir.-Gen. Plesner

Calls for director-general's resignation come after he fires deputy Berkovich.

yohanan plesner 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yohanan plesner 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The dispute between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz took a backseat on Tuesday to a battle inside Kadima over the future of the party's Harvard-educated director-general Yohanan Plesner. Kadima faction chairman MK Avigdor Yitzhaki, who preceded Plesner as director-general, asked Kadima MKs on Tuesday to sign a petition asking Olmert to fire Plesner. He said a majority of Kadima ministers and MKs favored ousting him and that Olmert would make a decision within a short period of time. One of the Kadima MKs who wants Plesner out said that "he has no political understanding or experience, he doesn't think politically and he has not met expectations, so it's time to go in a different direction." What ignited calls to replace Plesner on Tuesday was his decision to fire the party's deputy director-general, Yulia Berkovich, who he has sparred with for months. When the Kadima faction approved the party's NIS 22 million budget last week, the MKs asked Plesner to shift funding from the party headquarters to its branches and ethnic campaigns. To do so, he eliminated Berkovich's position. "My responsibility is to the party's constituency and its politicians to provide a lean party that functions well and best uses its resources," Plesner said. "Sometimes professional decisions have personal implications. You can warm your seat and not make a decision and drown together or you can do what is right. I would rather make a decision and be criticized than do nothing and be mediocre." Regarding his relationship with Olmert, Plesner said the prime minister trusted him to run the party while he runs the country. Plesner denied a Channel 10 report last week that suggested that Olmert was trying to force him out of his job by getting him into the Knesset. Olmert asked Kadima MK Eli Aflalo last week to run the Jewish Agency settlement division in place of the recently deceased Shlomo Gravetz. Aflalo's departure would make way for the next name on the Kadima list, professor and former general Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael. Ben-Yisrael may decide not to leave his job as head of the Security Studies program at Tel Aviv University to be a backbench MK, which would enable Plesner, who is next on the Kadima list, to enter the Knesset. Such a scenario would allow Olmert to solve the problems in the party without entering into the internal party battle. But Ben-Yisrael has given indications that he wants to enter the Knesset after all, which may force the prime minister to intervene and decide Plesner's fate. Asked whether Olmert had decided to fire Plesner, the prime minister's spokesman responded that no decision had been made yet. The faction has been divided into four camps: Plesner supporters and opponents, MKs staying out of the fight and some who want everyone to quit. "They have to fire everyone and start over," MK Marina Solodkin said. "As Shakespeare said, 'a plague on both your houses.'" In other Kadima news, 38 mayors signed a petition on Tuesday asking Olmert to allow Ma'alot mayor Shlomo Bohbut to run for chairman of the Histadrut under the Kadima banner against incumbent Ofer Eini. Olmert has yet to decide on the matter.