Livni: Draft Indictment Means Olmert Must Go

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday reacted angrily to Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and accused her of opportunism, following her call for him to suspend himself in view of the indictment facing him over the Rishon Tours scandal.

Livni, who also serves as foreign minister, summoned an emergency meeting of Kadima yesterday to discuss the repercussions of a potential indictment against Olmert. "The prime minister must take leave. There is no other option," Livni said.

"This is a dramatic day," she added. "The Kadima party cannot afford to follow these norms. There has been a change in Israel. This isn't Olmert's personal matter but a public matter."

Livni said that this was a difficult day for the state following the attorney general's announcement Wednesday night that an indictment against Olmert is imminent. Olmert lashed out at Livni following her statement, telling confidants that "Livni is trying to build her campaign on my back."

An Olmert aide accused Livni of "opportunism, intended to enable her to be prime minister at any cost. If she doesn't like it, she can resign."

The renewed clash in Kadima's leadership yesterday shook the party, which is plunging in the polls ahead of the approaching elections. A Kadima MK said Olmert had to go "or Kadima will be badly damaged in the elections."

Olmert meanwhile made it clear that he had no intention of taking leave "because he is busy with important, urgent matters," his aide said.

Livni told Kadima's faction members earlier that "despite the discomfort and despite the fact that none of us are eager to do so, Kadima was established in order to impart worthy norms of behavior."

She called on faction members identified with Olmert to put aside their allegiance. "We have no other choice," Livni said. "We are here together and have to work as a faction."

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told Olmert on Wednesday that he is considering filing an indictment against him for allegedly using state funds from multiple state bodies to finance private trips abroad. The attorney general made his decision a few weeks ago, but prefered to wait until Olmert returned from his just-completed Washington D.C trip. He will issue a final decision on the matter pending the outcome of a hearing he will hold for Olmert.

Livni decided to call on Olmert to suspend himself after consulting with party members close to her. Her advisers said they could not ignore the developments in Olmert's case, and urged her to wash her hands of him.

About five minutes before the faction meeting Livni called Olmert's bureau to tell him she was about to urge him to go on leave. Olmert had "no time" to take her call, and his men said he was busy with deliberations on state affairs.

"Olmert must conduct the struggle for his innocence from his home, not from the prime minister's seat. This is a moral and ideological test. It's important for Kadima's faction to have its say on a day like this," Livni said.

She reminded the faction members of Olmert's call to Moshe Katsav to suspend himself after the announcement of the intention to indict the former president. "If we have to we'll fight both the Likud and the prime minister, and win. We expected him to act according to the advice he had given Katsav," she said.