Kadima to replace PM Ehud Olmert before Sept. 25, saves government

The deal with a Sept. 25 deadline for a Kadima primary effectively forestalled the Likud-led opposition Knesset dissolution vote Wednesday, June 25 and its support by Labor members, which would have brought the government down, debkafile‘s political sources report.
The two ruling parties, Kadima and Labor, reached an eleventh hour agreement before dawn, June 25. It was signed by foreign affairs committee chairman Tzahi Hanegbi and Labor secretary Eitan Kabel. Ehud Olmert’s Kadima faction undertook to convene next Monday to finalize a date for the primary to take place before September 25.
The two party leaders agreed to delay a general election until spring 2009 without setting a date. This will give Kadima’s candidate for prime minister six months’ grace in office.
The Kadima-Labor deal paved the way for a merger in time for them to run for election as a single, unified bloc.
The Labor leader, defense minister Ehud Barak, snatched victory from almost certain downfall for refusing to quit the Olmert government in the face of popular and party demands – first after the 2006 Lebanon War debacle, latterly over the cash envelopes scandal.
He has in fact pulled off a bloodless coup d’etat against the prime minister and maneuvered himself into front position should Labor and Kadima forge a union. Another survivor is the prime minister’s own Kadima party which would have gone under if Likud had forced the Knesset into dissolution Wednesday.
The leading Kadima prime ministerial candidates, both of whom are bound to retain Barak as defense minister, are foreign minister Tzipi Livni and transport minister Shaul Mofaz.
The prime movers behind this rescue operation were Kadima’s Tzahi Hanegbi and Labor’s Shalom Simhon, both seasoned political manipulators.
The two big losers are the prime minister – his own party has shown him the door – and his rival, opposition Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, former and would-be prime minister. Likud MK Silvan Shalom’s initiative to overthrow Israel’s most unpopular government ever by means of a motion to dissolve the Knesset and force a general election was neatly outmaneuvered.
Likud too faces serious rethinking about the quality of its leadership. Shalom operated in the vacuum generated by Netanyahu’s failure to lead Likud in a fighting campaign against the government.

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