Israel’s opposition leader calls for early election

Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu takes issue with the manner of prime minister Ehud Olmert’s decision to leave office, because it sidesteps the voter.
Passing the premiership sideways to a successor, which Olmert’s own Kadima will elect in a primary in two months, is a form of “artificial respiration” for a failed government, he said Thursday, July 31. Olmert should have dissolved the Knesset and announced an early election – first when his mismanagement of the 2006 Lebanon War was confirmed by a committee of inquiry, but certainly, when the envelopes of cash scandal came to light earlier this year.
In any case, the entire ruling coalition has rendered itself unfit to govern by its many failures, said Netanyahu, a former prime minister.
debkafile‘s political sources report: Olmert bequeaths his successor a deeply divided cabinet based on a precarious parliamentary majority of four. It faces its first major hurdle over the passage of the 2009 budget.
In all popular polls, the opposition Likud leads substantially over all other parties, including Kadima under alternative leadership.
Wednesday night, Olmert announced in a special broadcast to the nation that he would not run for election in Kadima’s first leadership primary taking place between Sept. 18 and Sept. 24. He intended handing over to the winning candidate, who would then form an alternative government.
Several politicians suggested that Olmert’s successor might not be up to the task. Some members of Labor, partners in the coalition – and leading candidates for the next administration – did not believe a Kadima candidate would be able to build a government, least of all a stable one. Therefore, after months of political turmoil, Israel would face a general election in early 2009, when their leader, the defense minister Ehud Barak, would lead the field.
Four ministers have declared their candidacy in the Kadima primary Tzipi Livni, foreign affairs, Shaul Mofaz, transport, Avi Dichter, internal security and Meir Sheetrit, immigration.
Livni met with Palestinian leader Ahmed Qurei and US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in Washington Wednesday to discuss the stalled peace talks.
No party won a majority in the last general election in January 2006 election. Olmert was forced to eke out his Kadima party’s 29 (out of 120 Knesset seats) by building a coalition with Labor (19), the ultrareligious Shas (12), Pensioners (7), which have meanwhile split, and Yisrael Beiteinu (11) which quit.

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