When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert realizes the pledge he made Wednesday evening to step down from office once a successor is elected from within his Kadima party – a political-legislative snowball will begin to form, but where it will lead is hard to foresee – can someone from Kadima form a new government or is Israel headed for general elections?
Olmert's resignation will entail the resignation of the government in its entirety. The responsibility for the next move will be on President Shimon Peres. After holding consultations with representatives from the various political factions in the Knesset, Peres will be required to task one of the MKs with establishing a new government.
Most chances are that individual will be the chairman-elect of Kadima, if only because it remains parliament's largest political party.
In any event, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also chairman of the Labor party and Olmert's key coalition ally, cannot be called upon to form a government because he is not an elected member of the Knesset.
The MK tasked with the mission will have 28 days to cobble together a stable government. The president can extend the allotted time by an additional 14 days. If his first choice is unable to deliver a government in time, Peres will then choose another MK, who will also have 28 days.
If the second MK tasked with the job cannot form a government and the Knesset Speaker believes no
majority can be reached – the elections will be pushed up and held within 90 days.
If Olmert's successor as party leader can form a coalition, Israel could have a new government in October. If not, an election campaign could take several months. Olmert would remain in office until a new premier is chosen, heading a caretaker government after he submits his resignation to President Shimon Peres. The process could extend into 2009.