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Livni. Won't repeat mistakes
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Dichter. In a problematic situation
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Mofaz. Waiting
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Olmert. Nothing has been decided
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Kadima ministers prepare to replace Olmert
Ruling party's four senior ministers – Livni, Mofaz, Dichter and Sheetrit – working hectically below the surface ahead of possible primary elections following potential resignation by prime minister. 'No one wants to be caught with his or her pants down,' source in Kadima says
Kadima ministers are preparing for a possibility of primary elections for the party's leadership, should Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decide to resign following an indictment in the Talansky affair, Ynet had learned in conversations with senior party officials.

 

A senior aide to Olmert, however, is not surprised and is trying to calm things down.

 

The prime minister is facing a very busy week, which will all be overshadowed by the heavy suspicions against him. US President George W. Bush is expected to land in Israel on Wednesday as part of the State of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations. This will be Bush's second visit to Israel within a few months, before leaving office at the end of the year.

 

Additional interrogations are expected in the Talansky case this week, and some suspects may even be confronted in the investigation room.

 

Kadima ministers, excluding Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who came to Olmert's defense over the weekend, have yet to officially respond to the new affair. The potential candidates in primaries for the party's leadership – Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter – are refraining from responding.

 

Everyone, so it seems from closed talks, have learned the lesson from Livni's remarks after the interim Winograd Report was released, when she was the only one to demand that the prime minister resign. Dichter is in a particularly sensitive situation, being the minister in charge of the Israel Police.

 

Despite all this, the four are continuing their extensive activity below the surface, which is mostly run by their closest staff, but it is quite possible that in the near future, in accordance with developments in the investigations, the activity will be expanded to include field workers.

 

"No one wants to be caught with his or her pants down," a senior political source in Kadima said Saturday. "These are not political rookies. The perception that Kadima may not be able to continue with Olmert for long is slowly penetrating, particularly for those who see themselves as potential candidates."

 

Fear of further drop in polls

Kadima ministers are ruling out a possibility that Olmert will decide to temporarily suspend himself, allowing Livni to replace him for a limited period of time.

 

"If Ramon was the replacement, it may have been considered," a senior Kadima source said. "But in case of an indictment, the way things look now, primaries are the most acceptable options as far as the four candidates are concerned."

 

Olmert's associates fear new public opinion polls which may point to another drop in Kadima's status, on the backdrop of the new affair. The prime minister's aides are currently working to strengthen his relations with the party ministers, including the potential leadership candidates. They estimate that none of the four candidates will make a move which may harm Olmert just yet.

 

Olmert's people are also working to strengthen his ties with the coalition members – the Labor Party, Shas and the Pensioners Party – ahead of the Knesset's summer session, which will open in about two weeks. They fear that if the police make progress in the investigation, the coalition will be destabilized.

 

A source close to the prime minister addressed the senior ministers' activity. "It's only natural. They are politicians, and it’s not surprising that they are concerned about their future.

 

"But in general, the political arena – including Shas, the Labor Party and the Pensioners Party, as well as most of Kadima's ministers – understands that the prime minister outlined a plan in his declaration Thursday – that he will resign should he be indicted.

 

"The situation now is that there are only suspicions against him and nothing had been proved or decided. The process is still long. Therefore I am telling all those putting the cart before the horses: Take a tranquilizer."

 

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