With Israel elections in sight, former PM Olmert to decide on his political future
Knesset, political officials urge former premier to run for office, despite a recent conviction and a pending trial; former IDF chief Ashkenazi rumored to consider joining Olmert.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert will decide whether or not he intends to run in the upcoming elections within days. Political sources indicatedon Wednesday that former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi was thinking of aligning himself with the former premier.
Consultations with legal advisers have reportedly "paved the way" for Olmert's possible return to politics, despite the fact that the former PM was convicted of breach of trust in the Investment Center affair in July, and in spite of ongoing trial involving Olmert in the Holyland case.
Aides to the former premier claimed that there weren't any legal obstacles standing in Olmert's way back to the prime minister's seat or to a place in the Knesset, but it is doubtful whether he could be named cabinet minister as long as he is the subject of a pending indictment.
Since Jerusalem's District Court sentenced him late last month, Olmert has been consulting with political figures, with MKs from Kadima and other parties urging the former premier to announce his return to politics. These individuals claimed that Olmert was the only person who could dislodge the two dominant blocs in Israeli politics, and build a center-left bloc coalition.
In addition, political sources have also told the former PM that both Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Yisrael Beiteinu's chief Avigdor Lieberman would be willing to join a cabinet led by Olmet, under certain circumstances.
Reportedly, Yishai, who has worked with Olmert in the past, respects the former PM's decision making abilities as well as his managerial prowess, traits which he may see in the former PM more than he does in current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Regarding Lieberman, the foreign minister's alignment with Olmert could trigger an elaborate maneuver, in which, by recommending Olmert to lead the coalition, he could effectively send Netanyahu to exile in the opposition.
According to estimates passed on to Olmert, Netanyahu would sooner retire from politics than remain in the opposition, paving the way for Lieberman to lead the right-wing bloc in the next election, in two- or three-years time.
Olmert has also been reportedly meeting former IDF chief Ashkenazi, who shares the former premier's passion to return to a position of influence, as well as sharing a common foe – Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Ashkenazi and Olmert have apparently been toying with the idea that the former army chief would serve as defense minister under the former prime minister, assuming that the move would receive legal approval as a result of the law stipulating that former military officers must wait three years before taking on public office.
Will Olmert run at the helm of Kadima? Will he be able to rebuild the fractured movement and lead it to elections victory? Or would he better off joining his nemesis Tzipi Livni or his close friend Yair Lapid.
Kadima would be happy to clear the chairman's seat, currently occupied by Shaul Mofaz. Regarding the other options, Lapid has already announced that he did not intend to run with Olmert, and Livni has yet to officially indicate whether or not she would be running for office.
Either way, even Olmert's and Ashkenazi's outside support could significantly aid any potential candidate.