ANAL­Y­SIS: OLMERT IN CRI­SIS What next for the coali­tion?

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY DANIELLA PELED

THE NET has been clos­ing in on Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert ever since the news broke of his al­leged fi­nan­cial mis­do­ings. The last three weeks have been lit­tle more than a re­lent­less march to­wards his fi­nal po­lit­i­cal demise.

On Wed­nes­day, this in­glo­ri­ous fate came a step closer with the an­nounce­ment by Labour leader Ehud Barak that he would lead his 19 MKs out of the coali­tion with­out some ma­jor show of po­lit­i­cal re­morse from Mr Olmert.

Few in the Is­raeli po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment be­lieve that Mr Olmert, de­spite his vast tal­ent for po­lit­i­cal manou­ver­ing, can sur­vive this fi­asco. The charges are just too dam­ag­ing, the le­gal case too sub­stan­tial, and the pub­lic dis­gust too great.

If he sus­pends him­self un­til the end of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as Mr Barak sug­gests, his deputy and bit­ter ri­val Tzipi Livni au­to­mat­i­cally steps into the breach. The coali­tion could the­o­ret­i­cally con­tinue un­changed.

If he re­signs — which un­der Is­raeli law he would have to do if in­dicted — Ms Livni would also take on his role, but would then need to re­make the gov­ern­ment afresh, with all the horse­trad­ing and new de­mands that that would en­tail.

For all his blus­ter, Mr Barak is un­likely to favour new elec­tions. If held now, Likud leader Binyamin Ne­tanyahu would be far and away the likely win­ner. There has been spec­u­la­tion that this latest charge from Mr Barak has been co-or­di­nated with Ms Livni, so as to po­si­tion her as pre­mier, sav­ing both Kadima and Labour from hav­ing to par­tic­i­pate in dam­ag­ing polls. Mr Olmert’s en­mity to­wards his for­eign min­is­ter has led some to sug­gest he may move to fire her and ap­point some­one such as Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Shaul Mo­faz as the lesser of two evils.

The short-term out­look for any kind of sta­bil­ity is not good. Mr Barak and Ms Livni are both far from strong within their own par­ties. The cabi­net is riven with dis­sent, with no one fig­ure strong enough to take the lead them­selves.

Mr Olmert may fight the in­evitable with enough force to drag it out for some more months — in­deed, he is trip­ping off to the US in the com­ing days, seem­ingly with­out a care in the world. How­ever the cards fall, Is­rael is fac­ing an­other pe­riod of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty.


Is­rael’s be­lea­guered Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert, speak­ing in the Knes­set this week

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