Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Barak Calls on Olmert to Step Aside

Hillel Fendel

Defense Minister Ehud Barak dramatically called this afternoon for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to remove himself from office. Barak heads Labor, the government coalition's second-largest party. His announcement followed a long meeting between Olmert and Barak, called by the Prime Minister. Barak said that if Olmert does not step down, "we will act to advance the elections." He did not specify a date, and said, "We are not standing with a stop-watch, but it should happen very soon."

The Labor Party leader said that Olmert can choose any one of several options: resignation, vacation, temporary suspension, or the like.

Barak also called on the members of Olmert's Kadima party to "make a self-reckoning" and choose its way: "If they choose a replacement, we will consider further cooperation with Kadima, but if Kadima does not act, and if a government that is satisfactory to us is not formed, then we will work to advance the date of the elections."

Barak has previously called on Olmert to step down, before the Olmert corruption scandal began. A year ago, shortly before he was elected to lead the Labor Party, he said that in light of the Winograd Report criticizing Olmert's performance during the Second Lebanon War, Olmert should reach personal conclusions and resign from office.

Barak said then, "If on March 28, I am elected chairman of the Labor Party, and the prime minister has yet to reach personal conclusions, I will act to form a wide consensus in my party and with the faction leaders to determine an appropriate and agreed date for elections."

However, Barak never acted to advance the elections, and in fact backtracked from his demands.

Despite very public pronouncements by Barak's own former campaign manager that Barak himself is no stranger to the culture of "money-stuffed envelopes," Barak is reported to have expressed, in meetings with Labor Party colleagues, "disgust" at Olmert's behavior.

Barak, during the press briefing, related to this point, calling it "nonsense," but adding that "one does not need a magnifying glass to see the difference" between the two cases. He did not elaborate.

Barak further told his party colleagues that Labor, as the second-largest party in the Knesset, need not be dragged along behind the initiatives of others, but should rather lead its own political moves.

The ball is now in Kadima's court, where either the Prime Minister himself will make an announcement, or party members will take actions of their own against or in favor of Olmert. The party leadership, including wannabe-leaders Livni, Mofaz, Sheetrit and Dichter, will have to come up with an agreed-upon approach regarding either Olmert's remaining in office, or the identity of his replacement, or a modus vivendi for choosing one.

Within Labor, MK Yoram Marciano criticized Barak for not calling immediately for new elections. "He acted as if he has no confidence that Labor can win, and rather called on Kadima to choose its new leader," Marciano said.


Anonymous said...

The Foreign Minister, Livni, should become the Prime Minister, since she is in the best position to negotiate a peace settlement with Palestine. She could reign in the brutality of the Israeli military "defense" attrocities committed against the helpless innocents in Palestine, halt expansion of illegal settlements, expell the current Jewish residents in those settlements, and offer those settlements free of charge to Palestinians in desparate need of housing. This would jump-start the "peace negotiations" which have long been bogged down by the stiff-necked Jews. Also, the Syrian Golan Heights issue should be resolved simultaneously, so that Syria is a third partner at the negotiating table. This will help ensure the long-term success in these "peace negotiations". May God help us !!

GS Don Morris, Ph.D./Chana Givon said...

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