Olmert: I will run in Kadima primary

PM believes Talansky cross-examination will clear his name; Barak tells Labor to prepare for elections.

olmert poser 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
olmert poser 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke to top Kadima activists Monday and told them that he intends to run for re-election as Kadima chairman in a primary that the party's steering committee approved Monday in a meeting at the Knesset. Olmert reportedly told the activists in conversations first revealed by Channel 10 that he believes he will be exonerated in the eyes of the public following the July 17 cross-examination of the main witness against him in the corruption scandal threatening his political career, Long Island Jewish financier Morris Talansky. In talks with his loyalists, Olmert compared Talansky's cross-examination to the final draft of the Winograd Report, which lifted a heavy political cloud that had hovered over his head when it was released in January. Despite next week's Knesset vote on the preliminary reading of a bill that would set a November 11 general election, Olmert told the activists that he expected that a general election would not be held before March. The activists were involved in organizing a rally on his behalf in Tirat Hacarmel 10 days ago and he called to thank them. Itzik Regev, who heads Kadima's field campaign, said he told Olmert that he disagreed with his decision to initiate a Kadima primary, which took a step forward in Monday's steering committee meeting. The committee decided to endorse holding a primary for party chairman, to change the party's bylaws to enable the Kadima council to set a date for the race, and to close its list of members eligible to vote for the party chairman no later than June 30. Olmert did not attend the meeting and the only Kadima leadership candidate who came was Public Security Minister Avi Dichter. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was in Luxembourg to meet with European Union foreign ministers, sent her advisers Amir Goldstein and Kalman Geyer in her stead. MK Marina Solodkin, one of Olmert's fiercest critics in the faction, said that Olmert should quit instead of forcing the party to change its bylaws to initiate a primary to replace him. MK Amira Dotan called for a primary to be held "tomorrow." MK Yoel Hasson, who is one of Olmert's chief defenders, said that after the steering committee approved initiating a primary there was no longer any reason for Labor to support the Knesset dispersal bill. "There is no remaining logical excuse for Kadima to vote for the bill," Hasson said. "This is the best ladder we will give Labor. They received the Kadima primary they wanted, and now they need to decide whether they also want general elections." But Labor and Shas officials said they still intend to vote for the bill, despite the efforts under way in Kadima. Barak told the Labor faction to prepare for elections. He said he would appoint one Labor MK to be the spokesman on each issue. In a speech to the Movement for Quality Government, Minister-without-Portfolio Ami Ayalon pledged to do everything possible to send corrupt politicians home. "The time when a politician could accept envelopes of cash and stay while the good people go home is over," Ayalon said. "If Israeli citizens believe that in order to be a politician you have to be corrupt, then only corrupt people will be in politics. Even in politics there is a limit to what is acceptable. Olmert has to go home."