Kadima MKs to Olmert: Speed departure

So far, 3 Kadima MKs have demanded Olmert quit, but new protest likely to come from backbench MKs.

amira dotan  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
amira dotan
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could face a mini-rebellion inside his Kadima faction of MKs demanding that he expedite his departure from politics Monday when the faction convenes to begin the process of initiating a Kadima primary. Olmert reluctantly agreed last Wednesday to initiate a lengthy bureaucratic process in Kadima that would likely eventually lead to a primary that would end his political career. He reportedly conditioned the move on the process taking so long that a date for the primary would not be set before the July 17 cross-examination of Morris Talansky, the key witness against Olmert in the corruption scandal that has threatened his premiership. Labor chairman Ehud Barak said Thursday that this was not soon enough and vowed that his faction's 19 MKs would vote in favor of Likud MK Silvan Shalom's bill that would disperse the Knesset and set a November election date. Barak's associates set a deadline for Kadima to announce a date for their primary by the time the bill is voted on in a preliminary reading on June 25. Barak's threat apparently frightened Kadima MKs, who intend to demand that the party not wait for July 17. They will make the demand at Monday's meeting of the faction with the party's steering committee, where Kadima's legal advisers were expected to explain why the process must take so long. So far, only three Kadima MKs have demanded Olmert quit over the Talansky affair: Marina Solodkin, Amira Dotan and Ze'ev Elkin. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who has the most to gain from Olmert speeding his departure, has not officially demanded it - nor will she Monday, when she will be at a European Union conference in Luxembourg. The new protest is expected to instead come from backbench MKs who would likely not return to the Knesset and have an interest in ensuring that the current Knesset last as long as possible. "We will demand that a date for primaries be set within no longer than two weeks," MK Shlomo Mula said. "Many MKs will demand that the lawyers expedite the process, which should be simple. Once we set a date for primaries, Labor has no reason to vote to disperse the Knesset. That way we can finish the Knesset session without a Knesset dispersal bill passing." Solodkin said the meeting with the party's legal advisers was unnecessary, "because they are paid by Olmert and therefore there is no value in listening to them." Solodkin sponsored a bill that would require the automatic suspension of a prime minister if three criminal investigations are opened against him. "We need to tell Olmert that he is running late," Solodkin said. "He should have already quit for the good of the country, the party and himself, the quicker the better. He should leave now to keep his dignity by leaving gracefully before the attorney-general [Menahem Mazuz] makes him go." Another Olmert opponent in Kadima said they did not expect protests in the party against Olmert to begin Monday, because the meeting is expected to be procedural. The Olmert opponent said that only after the MKs hear the legal advisers explain the process ahead will they be able to decide whether to protest, based on what they hear. "We all know the party has no future with Olmert," a Kadima MK said. "I wish he would go on his own, but he won't, so we will have to be respectful to him as long as he is the head of our party."