Olmert: I won't resign after Winograd

Tells Meretz MKs will respond to report in due time; says settlements being widened only in larger blocs.

olmert 224.88 (photo credit: GPO [file])
olmert 224.88
(photo credit: GPO [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not give in to his political opponents' demands that he resign after next month's release of the Winograd Report, Olmert told the Meretz faction on Wednesday. During a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, MK Zehava Gal-On, who is running for Meretz leader, asked Olmert why he had decided only now to invite the faction to meet with him for the first time since his government was formed. Olmert has been meeting with opposition MKs and public figures in advance of Winograd's release in hopes of softening the blow. Gal-On told the prime minister that Meretz would not play a part in his effort to rehabilitate his reputation in the wake of the report. Olmert responded that he was aware that Gal-On and other MKs would call upon him to resign after the report was published, but that he did not intend to acquiesce. "I do not intend to resign due to the Winograd Report," Olmert said. "I will find the time and the place to respond to the report." Olmert also said he was aware that diplomatic progress could lead to the departure of Shas and Israel Beiteinu from the government. However, he said he was more concerned that if a diplomatic agreement were not reached with the Palestinians soon, it could lead to the Palestinians demanding a binational state instead of a two-state solution. The front-running candidate for the Meretz leadership, MK Haim Oron, and outgoing party chairman Yossi Beilin have both hinted that they would support joining the government if Israel Beiteinu left. Gal-On said she disagreed with Oron and Beilin and doubted that Olmert would succeed in reaching a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians. She said she hoped the Winograd Report would lead to his downfall. "Winograd will remind everyone that Olmert is an irresponsible and impulsive leader," Gal-On said. "He wants Meretz's help to survive the report. He thinks we will be the cotton around his etrog, but he is mistaken." Oron said he had no comment about the meeting with the prime minister. MK Ran Cohen, who is running against Oron and Gal-On, said afterwards that he had urged Olmert at the meeting to appoint a committee of three former education ministers to help solve the strike in higher education. Cohen said he had told Olmert that no steps had been taken toward peace since Annapolis, and had complained that no illegal settlement outposts had been removed, despite Israel's commitments on the issue. "He portrayed himself as a man of peace, but there is no evidence of that in reality," Cohen said.