Livni: I'm not undermining Olmert

FM accused of being "unrestrainable underminer," after she met group of bereaved families.

Livni cool 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Livni cool 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni defended herself Sunday against charges that she had met with a group of bereaved families and reserve soldiers earlier in the day in an effort to undermine Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ahead of Wednesday's release of the Winograd Report. Kadima MKs loyal to Olmert accused Livni of being an "unrestrainable underminer," the same term former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin used to criticize his rival Shimon Peres. Olmert's loyalists in the cabinet added fuel to the fire in a Kadima ministerial meeting, where Vice Premier Haim Ramon accused Livni of falling into a political trap set by Kadima's adversaries. A representative from the Prime Minister's Office called the meeting a "publicity ploy" aimed at deflecting the blame for her part in the Second Lebanon War. Although the protest groups had requested several meetings with Livni over the past weeks, the foreign minister only contacted them over the weekend to arrange Sunday's meeting. "I know there are anonymous people who claim to speak for the party who were concerned about the meeting," Livni told Kadima ministers. "But I have to say that at a time when we have a problem with the public's trust, it's bad for the government and for Kadima that we are facing off against bereaved families." Livni later told the families that she was "shocked by the delegitimizing" being done to them. She said she had not met with the group to support their effort to overthrow Olmert and that the meeting had been interpreted incorrectly. Livni said it was "her duty" to meet with the groups, since she was a member of the government that made crucial decisions during the war. "There is no right time for a meeting such as this," she said. "A meeting with combat soldiers and bereaved families is the bare minimum required, even if it's difficult. I didn't evade these meetings until today, and I won't evade them now. I intend to listen to them, and it definitely won't be easy." The reservists and families of fallen soldiers tried to convince Livni to call for Olmert's resignation as she did following the publication of the interim Winograd report in April 2007. "We have not forgotten what she said when the interim report was published. We want her to follow through and use her influence to convince Olmert to leave," said David Einhorn, who lost his son during the war. "These are the days in the life of a real politician when they know when to say and do the right things at the right time." Reservist Yakir Segev said that in contrast to before the first report, when Livni "merely mumbled," this time they expected "action." "Whether it is pressuring Livni or appealing to the public, we will make our voices heard until this prime minister goes home," said reserve soldier Ronen Shoval. "If Kadima doesn't take it [into its own hands] to topple Olmert, then Labor will be the party to step up and take matters into its own hands." Shoval added that National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) had personally promised the protest groups that "one way or another, Olmert would go home... If Kadima doesn't do it, then Labor will." Meanwhile, a number of protests have been planned for the coming week, despite the stormy weather expected throughout the country. The moment that Judge Eliyahu Winograd reads the report's conclusions on Wednesday evening, various groups are planning to protest outside the Prime Minister's Residence and the homes of Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. If those protests don't successfully influence the key political players, a mass rally might also be held in Tel Aviv's Kikar Rabin. "We are going to hold smaller rallies outside their homes instead of a mass protest on Wednesday," said Tomer Bohanda, a reservist who has actively protested against Olmert since the war ended. "We are worried that people won't come out because of the inclement weather, which would make us look as though our cause had no real backing."