Olmert Names Livni as His Deputy PM

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will become deputy prime minister should Kadima, as expected, win next week's election, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced yesterday.

Livni, therefore, would automatically replace Olmert if he were out of the country or temporarily incapacitated.

Olmert said yesterday that he attributed great importance to announcing the identity of his deputy, since he himself was catapulted into the prime minister's chair by the fact that he was serving as deputy premier when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke. Kadima officials said they expected the other prime ministerial candidates to name their designated deputies as well.

According to the law, an acting prime minister can serve for a maximum of 100 days; after that, the cabinet must either confirm him as prime minister or choose another of its members to assume the post. Since Olmert's 100 days expire on April 11, if a new government has not been formed by that date, the outgoing cabinet would have to convene and formally name him as prime minister. Once that happens, he would be free to name Livni as his deputy.

In other developments yesterday, Dr. Yoram Turbowicz, whom Olmert intends to name as his chief of staff following the elections, flew to London and met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief of staff in order "to learn about the job." The Prime Minister's Bureau said that Turbowicz focused solely on organizational issues during his trip, and did not discuss any diplomatic matters. Since he is not dealing with diplomacy, no similar trip to the United States has been planned.

People who have spoken with Olmert in recent weeks believe that after the elections, he wants to set up a personal staff in the Prime Minister's Bureau that would strengthen his control over the government bureaucracy and reduce his dependence on the defense establishment, which currently does most of the staff work on foreign and defense policy for the prime minister. Turbowicz, as chief of staff, would be responsible for coordinating between Olmert's foreign and defense policy team and his domestic policy team.

National Security Council Chairman Giora Eiland recently recommended to Olmert that the NSC become part of the Prime Minister's Bureau and handle the premier's diplomatic-security staff work. He also proposed that the director general of the Prime Minister's Office serve as head of a socioeconomic council that would handle staff work on domestic issues.

Tal Zilberstein, one of Olmert's advisers, and Industry Ministry director general Ra'anan Dinur, who is expected to become director general of the Prime Minister's Office if Olmert wins the election, have been coordinating the work of the "100 days team" that is planning the reorganization of the Prime Minister's Bureau for Olmert. According to a government source, Ofer Dekel, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet security service, has also recently been added to the team. Dekel is a close associate of Olmert's who frequently accompanies him on his morning jogs, and government sources believe that he will be given a senior government position if Kadima wins the election.

Most of Sharon's close advisers, who have been helping Olmert ever since he became acting premier, will leave their jobs after the elections. Among the few exceptions are cabinet secretary Yisrael Maimon and military secretary Gadi Shamni, both of whom have been asked by Olmert to stay on in their posts. Of all of Olmert's aides, Shamni has been spending the most time with him recently.