Photo: Channel 2
Livni during press conference
Photo: Channel 2

Livni calls on Olmert to resign

Foreign minister says she told Olmert resignation ‘would be the right thing to do’ in light of Winograd report’s severe conclusions, but Kadima faction backs Olmert's decision to stay in office

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called Wednesday on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign, saying the ruling Kadima party should hold primary elections to elect a new leader to replace Olmert.


But hours after Livni's announcement, Kadima MKs unanimously expressed support for Olmert during an emergency meeting in Jerusalem to discuss a highly-critical report on the government's handling of last summer's war with Hizbullah.


"The faction backs the government's decision to lead a fast and determined process to implement the recommendations of the Winograd Commission," read a statement issued by the faction.


Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, Livni said she intends on running for the party’s leadership, drawing threats by Olmert aides that she will be fired from the government. 


"I told the prime minister in private talks that resignation would be the right thing," Livni said.


Olmert responded by telling Livni that she cannot launch a campaign to bring him down while holding on to her post of deputy prime minister.


"You cannot lead a rebellious campaign against me and remain my number 2. You need to weigh your moves and decide what you want to do," Olmert reportedly told Livni.


An Olmert aide said the prime minister would be forced to fire Livni. "After she did what she did, there is no other alternative but to fire her, as her conduct was improper," Tal Zilberstein, Olmert's strategic advisor told Ynet.


Sources close to the prime minister told Ynet that Olmert was weighing to replace Livni with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. However, officials from the Prime Minister’s Office later clarified that she would not be dismissed in the near future.


"There is no need to draw all the attention. The foreign minister must decide how she can live with herself," one official said.


The foreign minister acknowledged that going to war against Hizbullah last summer was the right decision, but added that the prime minister should resign in the wake of a report that severely criticized his handling of the conflict.


The Winograd Commission censured Olmert for taking Israel to war "hastily" and for failing to envision an exit plan. The commission was appointed by Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz last September to probe the government's and the army's conduct during the war.


Livni warned however that she would not back no-confidence motions in the Knesset by opposition parties seeking to push Israel for new elections, saying that Kadima was the right platform to elect a new prime minister.


"There were rumors that I was working to oust the prime minister. This never happened. That is a decision that he should take," Livni said.


"I believe that Kadima should stay and run the State of Israel. When the time comes, I will announce my candidacy for the party's leadership," she said. "I believe general elections would be a mistake as the State of Israel needs stability. If the prime minister decides to resign, I believe the Knesset can put a government together."


Asked whether her announcement amounted to an ultimatum for Olmert to resign, Livni said that other Kadima ministers had also told the prime minister to step down.


Livni lamented the lack of cooperation between her and the prime minister during the 34-day war. She said the foreign ministry was sidelined by the prime minister and prevented from having a say in decision-making.


"Cooperation between the prime minister and the foreign minister is not a personal, but a critical matter. It is no secret that during the war there was no cooperation of the kind, as the commission ruled that the responsibility for the lack of cooperation falls on the prime minister," she said.


פרסום ראשון: 05.02.07, 17:40
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