Likud expands anti-Olmert campaign

Protests part of effort to get PM to resign ahead of release of Winograd report.

Olmert Bibi 298 ap (photo credit: )
Olmert Bibi 298 ap
(photo credit: )
If you get stuck in traffic on Friday at the entrance to Jerusalem, don't blame pre-Shabbat congestion or the Calatrava bridge construction. Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and other Likud MKs and activists intend to hold street protests there and at 10 other key junctions around the country on Fridays, under the banner "The Olmert government has failed and must go home." The protests are part of a effort by the Likud to raise public pressure on Olmert to resign ahead of the release of the Winograd Committee's report on the Second Lebanon War later this month. Likud officials vow the party's MKs will be on the streets every Friday until Olmert steps down. Netanyahu announced the effort in a meeting with hundreds of key party activists on Tuesday. The activists had complained that the Likud's resurrection in the polls was not being reflected in activity on the street. "We see this government as responsible for its failures and ahead of Winograd's release is a good time to show we are acting like an opposition," a party spokesman said. "The people want elections and to replace this government, and we want this government to listen to what the people are saying and quit." The campaign is a change of direction for Netanyahu, who had previously gone out of his way to act statesmanlike and apolitical. After serving as a spokesman for Israel with the foreign press during the war, Netanyahu's attacks on Olmert have sharpened in recent months. Separately, Netanyahu will formally launch the Likud's new Anglo division in a kickoff event at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters on Thursday. The division was set to hold its opening event in March but it was postponed by Netanyahu for personal reasons. The new division is intended to appeal to immigrants from English-speaking countries who want to help the Likud return to power and to advance issues of particular appeal to so-called Anglo voters. The division's founder, Ari Harow, said those issues included clean government, electoral reform, education, public diplomacy (hasbara) and aliya. Meanwhile in the Labor leadership race, candidates MK Ami Ayalon and MK Ophir Paz-Pines have accused former prime minister Ehud Barak of trying to "silence the campaign." Both Ayalon and Paz-Pines intend to intensify attacks on Barak to bring more attention to a race that has failed to generate major headlines. Ayalon's spokeswoman said it was unacceptable that Barak had not clarified his stance on many of the most important issues. Paz-Pines went further, accusing Barak of "maintaining his right to remain silent," the defense used by Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and other former Barak aides in the nonprofit organizations scandal surrounding how Barak funded his 1999 campaign for the premiership. "There are candidates who are trying to win the race by exercising their right to remain silent," Paz-Pines told supporters in Tel Aviv. "The Israeli public deserves to know what would happen the day after the election." Paz-Pines said Ayalon has also failed to say clearly enough whether he would remain in Olmert's cabinet if he won the race for party chairman. He challenged the other contenders to a debate ahead of the May 28 primary.