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Ehud Olmert at the helm of Kadima is tantamount to the party not emerging victorious in the next elections, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter declared yesterday at a press conference shortly after the terrorist attack on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem. Despite the attack, Dichter did not cancel the press conference.

Dichter's statements touched a sore nerve among the Prime Minister's supporters, who responded with their own attacks against the Minister of Public Security.

"Instead of going to the scene and doing his job he is busy with politics," senior Kadima sources said yesterday.

Other senior Kadima figures went as far as to call on Dichter to resign.

"Any trick whose purpose is to prepare for the reelection of Ehud Olmert as head of Kadima deceives the leadership of Kadima, our coalition partners and the Israeli public," he said.

"If Olmert will lead Kadima in the next elections, Kadima will not be the ruling party," the senior Kadima minister said at the press conference.

Dichter said that if the Kadima regulations were altered to hold primaries not only to elect a party head but also a deputy, "it would be an act of deception."

The Kadima minister said the primaries in the party should focus on finding a replacement for Olmert who could lead a government until 2010.

He also acknowledged there were complaints about "inappropriate" recruitment of members, adding "we are trying to replace them with tens of thousands of new members."