Photos: Ohad Zwigenberg, Ofer Amram, Haim Zach, Ido Erez
Photo: Yehonatan Tzur
Yet to decide
Photo: Yehonatan Tzur
Olmert considers political comeback
Sources close to former PM say there is no legal impediment preventing him from running in next Knesset elections

Is former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert planning a political comeback? Sources close to Olmert said he is seriously considering running as the head of a centrist party in the next Knesset elections slated to take place early next year. The former prime minister is likely to make a decision on the matter in a few days.


The sources said there is no legal impediment preventing him from running and that Olmert himself is confident he can return to the fold and even form a government if elected.


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Over the past few weeks, Olmert has been holding meetings with various elements who have asked him to return to public life and run against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


The former prime minister, who has recently been cleared of corruption charges and relieved of community service, has yet to make a final decision on the matter while those around him disagree on the matter. Members of his immediate family oppose the move while his advisers are eager to see him run again.


Some politicians believe that given the opportunity created with the declaration of early election and the need for an experienced leader who can fill the role of prime minister, Olmert has good chances of being elected again.


Olmert has several options: returning to and heading Kadima with both Shaul Mofaz and Tzipi Livni likely to agree to serve under his leadership or setting up an alignment of centrist parties and movements which will include Kadima and which he will head.


Livni is also considering her steps. On Tuesday she posted a Facebook status which suggested she plans to return to public life.


Many believe that with his vast experience and the fact that he is the only leader to form a government with both Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu, Olmert could threaten Netanyahu's ability to form a government.


Senior Likud ministers have already expressed concern of the prospect that Olmert will run again. "Currently, no one (in the Left or center) can be prime minister," one minister said. "That is why Netanyahu could easily form a government but if Olmert runs it will ultimately come down to the two of them and then there will be a tough battle."


Legal arena

Olmert however still faces a verdict in the Holyland case but legal sources close to him estimated that the state witness's testimony is unlikely to incriminate him.


"Olmert would not consider returning to public life had he thought for one second that he is in any way connected to the Holyland affair," one source said.


He added that chances were equally as small for an appeal in the Talansky case.


On Tuesday, Netanyahu announced he was moving up the Knesset elections. It is estimated they will be held at the end of January or early February.


One of the fiercest battles is set to take place at the Likud party, where 130,000 voting party members will elect candidates for the Likud list within five weeks. Among the current 27 MKs, five to seven stand to lose their Knesset seats.




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