Livni hints Olmert must go

Foreign minister denies changing her mind on prime minister.

livni makes point 289.88 (photo credit: AP)
livni makes point 289.88
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has not changed her opinion that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert must resign due to his mishandling of the Second Lebanon War, sources close to Livni said on Wednesday. Livni's associates said she was misinterpreted when she said at a press conference with visiting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana that the current government must fix the problems raised in State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's report on the handling of the home front ahead of and during the Second Lebanon War. "We need to carry out this process," Livni said. "Some of the [recommendations] have already started being implemented, but we of course have to address all the findings of the report in an organized manner. This is the job of this government and this is what we will do." Livni's associates hinted that she was referring to the current government but not necessarily the current prime minister. After the Winograd Committee released its harsh interim report on April 30, Livni called for Olmert's resignation in a press conference at the Foreign Ministry. Former coalition chairman MK Avigdor Yitzhaki of Kadima, who also called on Olmert to resign after the interim Winograd Report was published, took a different approach on Wednesday, and said that the State Comptroller's report was no reason for Olmert to have to leave his office. "I still think that Olmert must quit," Yitzhaki said. "But when it comes to this report, I actually agree with Olmert, because I think the state comptroller is acting out a personal vendetta, so I can't take what he says seriously." Kadima MK Marina Solodkin said that after she received hundreds of complaints from constituents during the war, she hoped Lindenstrauss's report would be tougher. She said she hoped the report would force the ouster of OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yitzhak Gershon, who she said was an essential domino to fall en route to Olmert's resignation. "Olmert had to quit immediately after the interim report, but he doesn't understand hints, so I hope he goes after the final report [is released]," Solodkin said. "That will be the final nail in his coffin. Israeli democracy knows how to take care of people, even those who don't want to take responsibility." MK Shai Hermesh, also of Kadima, said Olmert promised him six and a half months ago that he would allocate NIS 300 million for fortified rooms in the communities near the Gaza Strip. He said the Construction and Housing Ministry had plans for the rooms but nothing had been built, because of interference from the Prime Minister's Office. "I blame only the prime minister," Hermesh said. "When it comes to matters of life and death, the prime minister cannot get away with passing the buck to his governmental clerks. He is leaving people unprotected from Kassams." Hermesh said he was not calling for Olmert to quit, "because whoever would come instead of him would be worse." Opposition MKs, meanwhile, called on Olmert to resign in the wake of the comptroller's report. The Likud, National Union-National Religious Party and Meretz parties all submitted no-confidence motions Wednesday afternoon that will be voted on next week, during the Knesset's final session before it goes to recess. "A government that abandoned millions of civilians in wartime cannot continue to function, regardless of the prime minister's multiple attempts at cover-up," said Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar. Meretz faction chair Zehava Gal-On said the comptroller's report painted the prime minister as a "reckless leader, who gambled not just with IDF soldiers' lives, but also with the lives of the residents of the North." "Instead of accepting responsibility for the failures and correcting the mistakes, he attacks the comptroller," Gal-On said. "He should draw the obvious conclusions today, and resign." Herb Keinon, Sheera Claire Frenkel and James Martin contributed to this report.