Labor: Bush summit spin for Winograd

Kadima MKs hope Bush's proposed talks will extend Olmert's tenure.

eitan cabel disapproves (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
eitan cabel disapproves
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
When US President George W. Bush invited moderate Arab leaders to a summit in the fall, he was talking about the geopolitics of Middle East peacemaking - but his invitation also affected local Israeli politics. Kadima MKs loyal to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed hope on Tuesday that the prospects of a fall summit and an impending diplomatic process could extend Olmert's tenure and end threats from Labor chairman Ehud Barak to remove his party from the government ahead of the final Winograd report's release in September or October. "It's clear that something is happening in the Middle East," Kadima MK Yoel Hasson said. "On the Palestinian side, things are happening that require us to have the most stable government and coalition possible to deal with such developments. I hope Barak sees what is happening on the diplomatic front and will therefore decide to be a big statesman and not a little political hack." Labor sources accused Olmert and Bush of coordinating the timing of the summit as "political spin" to influence Barak and, more importantly, the Winograd Committee to keep Olmert in power. They said Olmert was following in the footsteps of his predecessor, former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who they said advanced disengagement from the Gaza Strip to influence several investigations against him. "Olmert might think that he can influence the public and his coalition partners with the summit, but he is not right," a Labor source said. "People in Labor who want us to leave the government will continue to want us to leave despite a diplomatic horizon, and people who want us to stay in the government will continue to want us to stay." Labor secretary-general Eitan Cabel, who wants Labor to leave the government immediately due to Olmert's failures in the Second Lebanon War, said he believed a different leader from Kadima could handle the diplomatic process just as well as Olmert. "Even if there will be a diplomatic process, I don't think it will stop us from insisting on Olmert's replacement if the Winograd report is grave," he said. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, a close Barak ally who favors remaining in the government, said he believed Barak would keep Labor in the coalition without any connection to the summit. He said he considers Olmert a good prime minister, adding that if Winograd allowed Olmert to remain, Labor would not be able to insist that he leave. "I don't think we will leave the government and we don't have plans to leave," Simhon said. "Influencing diplomatic policy is of course a factor in staying, but there are many other good reasons to stay."