Exclusive: An early Israeli general election is becoming unavoidable

debkafile‘s political sources report that circles closest to Ehud Olmert, prime minister and leader of the Kadima party see little hope of him surviving the political fallout from the new, as-yet unpublished police investigation against him.
Tuesday, May 6, is seen as marking the critical point in the inquiry, after which the police and general prosecution will move quickly to draw up an indictment.
Whether or not Olmert escapes conviction at the end of the road, his position as prime minister is becoming untenable ahead of the legal battle to clear is name.
Our sources do not credit the reports that Monday, May 5, visiting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice leaned hard on Olmert to mark President George W, Bush’s May 14 visit with a declaration defining the final frontiers of a Palestinian state acceptable to Israel. They say Rice is fully aware he is in no state for radical decisions that would finalize Israel’s state borders as well.
Israel’s parties have begun looking ahead to an autumn 2008 general election. A vacuum is beginning to form in the conduct of Israel’s most pressing security and other matters because of the prime minister’s shrinking authority.
Foreign minister Tzipi Livni as acting prime minister would step into Olmert’s shoes to head a caretaker government until elections, if he stepped down or was otherwise barred from carrying out his duties. In prospective Kadima primaries, transport minister Shaul Mofaz and others would challenge her for the party leadership.
Labor leader, defense minister Ehud Barak, is believed to be exploring a pact with Livni to form a new party bloc to fight Likud. New party factions may spring up. There are no clear answers as yet on the manner of Olmert’s departure or its short-term impact on the shape of the government coalition.

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