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Olmert likely to give OK for Kadima party primaries

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    Olmert likely to give OK for Kadima party primaries Gil Hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST May. 31, 2008 www.jpost.com
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2008
      Olmert likely to give OK for Kadima party primaries
      Gil Hoffman , THE JERUSALEM POST May. 31, 2008

      Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday will make his first public statements
      since calls for him to leave office were made last week by Defense Minister
      Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

      Olmert is expected to announce at the start of Sunday's weekly cabinet
      meeting or at the Kadima ministers' meeting that precedes it that he will
      not stand in the way of the party beginning a process of initiating a
      primary to choose his replacement. Olmert reportedly made such a commitment
      over the weekend in talks with senior Kadima officials.

      Sunday is the last day for Olmert to to comment publicly about his political
      situation before he leaves on Monday for a week-long trip to the United
      States, which will be followed by Shavuot.

      If nothing happens before he leaves, nothing will happen for two weeks.

      Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi called
      on Saturday for a Kadima primary and a general election to be held as soon
      as possible. Speaking on Channel 2's Meet the Press, he said that after the
      election a national unity government of Kadima, Likud and Labor should be
      formed to deal with strategic threats from Iran.

      "I consulted with Olmert and senior Kadima officials on the matter and,
      clearly, [I think] it is impossible to hold this crumbling coalition
      together," Hanegbi said. "Even if Barak does not quit, Shas will leave the
      coalition, and if Shas doesn't leave, Barak will."

      Hanegbi told The Jerusalem Post that his effort to advance the primary was
      coordinated with Olmert, whose approval was necessary according to party
      bylaws. He said it would take a month-and-a-half, which wouldn't start until
      Olmert returned from Washington, just to decide the procedure for holding
      the party's first-ever primary.

      Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Friday that he expected Israel to hold
      elections in November. Noting that the US would be holding elections then,
      he told the Soref Symposium of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
      that "I believe Israel is probably going to have elections in November as

      Ramon said that in such a scenario, he would recommend making an effort to
      reach an Israeli-Palestinian framework agreement that could be presented at
      a second international conference that would follow up on last November's
      Annapolis conference.

      Thirty-nine percent of registered Kadima members intend to vote for Livni to
      head the party, a Dahaf Institute poll published Friday by Yediot Aharonot
      Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz had the support of 25% of respondents,
      Public Security Minister Avi Dichter 15% and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit
      In addition, 38% said Olmert should quit now as opposed to 52% who said he
      should only resign if he is indicted. Eight percent said he should not
      resign even if indicted.

      A Ma'ariv poll showed that if elections were held now, a Binyamin
      Netanyahu-led Likud would win 30 mandates, a Livni-led Kadima would get 25
      and Labor under Barak would win 18. If Mofaz were Kadima's candidate, Likud
      would win 31 seats, Kadima 18 and Labor 21.

      Sources close to Mofaz, who met secretly with Olmert on Thursday, said they
      were encouraged by the polls, which show him constantly gaining on Livni.
      Livni was quoted over the weekend telling confidants that she preferred
      holding elections to the formation of an alternative government under her
      leadership. She said the reasons were the complimentary polls and her fears
      of relying on Shas, which would likely increase its demands to remain in the
      coalition under her leadership. Her spokesman denied that she was dealing
      with such issues at this stage.

      Responding to Mofaz's statement on Thursday that Livni was conspiring with
      Labor to destroy Kadima, a source close to Livni said that she "won't
      descend into a slandering match. We must work for Kadima's unity and for
      restoring the public's faith in the party."
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