Friday, November 28, 2008

Livni, Olmert Swap Accusations

Maayana Miskin Livni, Olmert Swap Accusations

Kadima head Tzipi Livni and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert traded accusations on Thursday as Livni called on Olmert to step down and Olmert refused to do so. Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has announced that Olmert is facing indictment for his part in the Rishon Tours affair. Livni's aides said Thursday that Kadima continues to drop in the polls as Olmert remains in power. His refusal to leave “gives the impression that Olmert has made a deal with Bibi [opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu—ed,” they said.

Livni and other Kadima members called on Olmert to step down during a party meeting on Thursday. “The citizen Ehud Olmert must conduct the legal battle for his innocence from his house and not from his seat in government,” Livni said. “The state of Israel cannot take one more day in which he serves as Prime Minister. This is a test of our values, a test of morals, a test of actions.”

Olmert's aides accused Livni and her supporters of making cynical use of Mazuz's announcement for her own political gain. Livni is hoping to force Olmert to step down so that she can take his place and increase her own political power prior to elections, they said. Livni failed to create a coalition, they said, and now hopes to show voters she is capable of leadership by running the country for the two months remaining before the elections.

2007 Olmert: Politicians facing indictment must step down

Olmert's critics have pointed out that when it came to then-President Moshe Katzav, he felt differently about indicted officials in office. When Mazuz announced his intention to indict Katzav in January of 2007, Olmert gave a public address in which he said, “The President cannot continue to fill his position, and he must leave the president's office.”

Livni reminded Olmert of his statement regarding Katzav during Thursday's Kadima meeting. She also mentioned former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who stepped down temporarily in 1977 when it was reported that his wife had a United States bank account. At the time, state officials were forbidden to maintain foreign bank accounts. “When Rabin was serving as Acting Prime Minister prior to elections, he announced his suspension immediately,” Livni said.

Prosecutors: This time we have enough evidence

Unnamed officials in the State Prosecutor's Office were quoted by Ynet on Thursday as saying that the planned indictment in the Rishon Tours affair will be more substantial than that filed against Katzav. “We have enough documents and proof, and we will be very surprised if the hearing leads us to change our mind,” they said.

The sources said evidence in the case indicated wrongdoing “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If he is found guilty, Olmert could serve up to seven years in prison, they said.

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