Jerusalem – The leading contender for the head of Kadima, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, may demand of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he go on leave if she is elected party chairwoman today and allow her to conduct affairs of the state.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s bureau explained that although Mr. Olmert is determined to resign, he would continue to head the transition government in the coming months.
“Olmert is not going anywhere,” said a source who asked not to be named, “He is not going to take a holiday nor will he declare himself incapacitated.” ?
But others see conflicts possible, should Ms. Livni be elected:
“Livni will not agree to serve in a government with two heads,” sources close to her said. “It doesn’t make sense. An absurd situation could develop in which Livni is chairwoman of the biggest party, which is supposed to dictate policy, while Olmert is prime minister representing himself, and he even wants to conduct peace negotiations. What will happen if there is a conflict between the two of them? Where would that lead?
“Suppose the prime minister wants to promote a quick agreement with Syria. Livni has already said that in her view the Palestinian issue has priority. It is clear that if she is elected she, not the prime minister, who is going home, has to decide what will happen. Who will go to meet McCain or Obama after the election in America? Who will decide on internal matters? Who will convene the Knesset faction? Who will have the formal authority? It is an unnatural and unhealthy situation. ?
“An even more serious situation could arise. Suppose a decision is made to indict Olmert. The prime minister will be given a hearing and will go through the entire process, while Livni, is she is elected party chairwoman, will not be able to function as prime minister. For Olmert to hang on to his seat like this is neither right nor dignified.”?
Mr. Olmert announced at the end of July that he would resign when the Kadima primary was over. If there is a quick victory, he said, would submit a letter of resignation, which will constrain in the role of head of a transition government, until the winner can form a government, or until elections are held. In such a situation he could remain in office for many months, creating a twin-governmental structure, something that Ms. Livni’s aides wish to avoid, if she wins the primary.
If the prime minister goes on leave, and declares himself incapacitated, Ms. Livni and her associates, or Shaul Mofaz and his associates, if he is elected, is expected to heave a sigh of relief.
In such a case the government will immediately, on the same day, elect his successor, who can direct affairs of state, without squabbles with the outgoing prime minister. The replacement can also enter the next election in the position of an incumbent prime minister, and it is clear that such a candidate has an enormous electoral advantage. ?
“In April 1977, after the affair of the dollar bank account, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin announced that he would not be the candidate who would lead the Labor Party in the coming elections. Since he could not resign from a transition government, he announced that he was taking leave and that Shimon Peres would replace him. That is what Olmert ought to do tomorrow evening,” Livni’s associates concluded.
Indeed, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a meeting with PA Chairman Abbas at noon yesterday.
The heads of the negotiating teams, Ms. Livni and Mr. Abu Ala, were not invited and did not attend the meeting.
Unconfirmed reports are that Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas will try to agree on a document summing up the understandings achieved until now, in preparation for Mr. Abbas’ meeting with President Bush next week in Washington.
Whatever the case, Mr. Olmert, who announced last Thursday that he would “resign without manipulations,” acts as he will be a most active transitional prime minister of a caretaker government Mr. Olmert often repeats his pledge to President Bush to establish a sovereign Palestinian state before the end of the calendar year, and his aides indicate that this is the reason why he will do everything possible to not budge from his position.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008