Yitzhaki Quits as Coalition Chair After Ultimatum to Olmert

Kadima faction leader said he would resign if PM did not; MK Hanegbi to take over position for next two weeks.

The head of the Kadima faction and coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki resigned at a party meeting Wednesday, after telling Ehud Olmert that he would quit if the prime minister did not heed calls for him to do so.

The post will be filled by MK Tzachi Hanegbi for the next two weeks.

The coalition chair had been pressing for Olmert's resignation since the Monday release of a scathing report on the prime minister's handling of the Second Lebanon War.

But at the emergency Kadima meeting Wednesday, which took place after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also called for him to resign, Olmert signaled he intended to soldier on.

"I intend to implement the recommendations of the [war] report down to the last detail," spokesman Jacob Galanti quoted him as saying.

"I am in a personally uncomfortable position, but I will not shirk my responsiblity and will fix all the mistakes," a senior official quoted Olmert as telling Kadima legislators at the closed-door meeting. The official declined to be named.

Under Kadima's rules, Olmert cannot be forced out. The only course of action is to persuade him to resign, officials say.

The Knesset could force Olmert out through a no-confidence vote, but there does not yet appear to be a majority to do so.

Yitzhaki said earlier Wednesday that if Olmert had not announced his intention to leave office by the start of the faction meeting, he himself would quit.

"Today, during the faction meeting, after I have stated my opinion that the prime minister should resign, if he decides that he will not resign, I will cease being the faction chair and the chairman of the coalition," he said.

Livni issued her own

According to Yitzhaki, he requested a meeting with the prime minister, but received no answer. "I don't know what will be said at today's faction meeting, but the Winograd report is very clear," he said.

"In order that Kadima can return to being a legitimate ruling party, and, in my view, both for the prime minister's own good and for that of the [Kadima] faction, a large majority of which believes that the prime minister should resign, the prime minister must take the action," Yitzhaki told Israel Radio early Wednesday.

"A leader can [only] govern the public when he has legitimacy with that public, and the trust of the public," he added.

"To my great sorrow, he must take responsibility and resign his position, to enable the formation of a new Kadima-led coalition to continue for the next three years."