[Freemanlist2] Calls mount for PM to Resign + Likud pushes for New Elections

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Sun May 4 12:00:42 CDT 2008


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  Calls mount for PM to step down amid 'severe' new probe
  
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          YAAKOV LAPPIN and DAN IZENBERG , THE JERUSALEM POST   May. 4, 2008  
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    Senior law-enforcement officials said over the weekend that a new criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is so "severe" that he will have to leave his post.   But the Prime Minister's Office rejected this assertion, and the Attorney-General's Office said the possibility of suspending Olmert had not been discussed at all.   In the opposition, however, calls mounted on Olmert to step down pending the result of the mysterious probe, whose details have been barred for publication by a court gag order.   MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) said he was working to dissolve the Knesset when it opens its summer session in two weeks, saying "the government of Ehud Olmert has reached the end of its road."   In an unusually expedited procedure, Olmert was questioned under caution at his official residence by members of the National Fraud Unit for about 90 minutes on Friday morning over what police would only say were new suspicions against him.   A top law enforcement
 official was quoted by Channel 1 as saying on Friday that Olmert's tenure was now in danger due to the severity of the latest investigation. The official expressed doubts over Olmert's chances of staying on as prime minister.   But officials in the Prime Minister's Office said they were confident the new suspicions would prove to be unfounded, adding that Olmert "answered all questions put to him by investigators, as he had on all previous occasions."   A police spokesman poured cold water on a Channel 2 report aired Saturday night that claimed Olmert would be questioned again, noting that similar reports of impending questioning by police of the prime minister in the past had often turned out to be inaccurate.   "There is no change in the status of the investigation since Friday," the spokesman added. "In the meantime, investigators are working on the case."   Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry issued a statement on Friday saying that the police had questioned Olmert
 regarding allegations that had not been investigated until now.   Before Friday's interrogation, Olmert was already under investigation regarding allegations of corruption regarding four separate cases.   Publication of details of the new investigation are barred by a sweeping, court-imposed media blackout.   Police Fraud Unit head Lt.-Cmdr. Shlomi Ayalon and two detectives arrived at Olmert's residence at 10 a.m. on Friday and questioned him.   Earlier, police had received a special permit to interrogate Olmert within 48 hours from Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz.   Some commentators have speculated that Mazuz issued the permit in response to concerns that Olmert might try to coordinate his testimony with his bureau chief, Shula Zaken, who has been his secretary for 30 years.   Zaken was also interrogated recently over possible links to the case at the National Fraud Unit's offices in Bat Yam.   "The prime minister answered all of the investigators' questions on the
 subject and will continue to cooperate with all legal authorities to the extent he is required to do so," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement on Friday. It added that Olmert "is convinced that with the discovery of the truth in the police investigation, the suspicions against him will dissipate."   Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, a member of Olmert's coalition, called the scope of charges against Olmert "unprecedented," and said he should suspend himself immediately.   "It has been proven beyond any doubt that the prime minister can't be under serial investigations and also lead the country," she told Israel Radio. "Olmert is stuck up to his neck in investigations. We cannot have a prime minister who is serially investigated by police. He is plainly corrupt even without waiting for a conviction."   "In the entire world there was never yet a precedent of a prime minister against whom so many investigations were held," Yacimovich added.   Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On
 echoed Yacimovich's comments, saying that Olmert should step down until the investigation was complete.   It was clear that Olmert did not know how to take personal responsibility and that Mazuz should "show him the way" and advise him to suspend himself, Gal-On said.   Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar called on the Labor Party to withdraw from the Olmert-led government of "serial suspects."   Labor MK and former cabinet minister Ophir Paz-Pines urged Mazuz to promptly publicize the apparently new allegations against Olmert.   Paz-Pines told Israel Radio that if they were indeed so severe that they lead to an indictment, Olmert could not possibly continue to serve as prime minister, "even for one more day."   "Mazuz needs to immediately tell the public what is going on. If there is proof, concrete allegations, and if the accusations are of bribery and taking money, there isn't a more severe offense for a pubic servant, especially for a prime minister," Paz-Pines added.   In Kadima,
 MK Yoel Hasson came to Olmert's defense.   "From past experience, we know that all the investigations started with a lot of noise and ended with nothing," he said. "The political system should not get hysterical and take rash political actions that will unsettle the government."   Mazuz has ordered two criminal investigations into suspicions that Olmert acted improperly while he was industry and trade minister.   He is also suspected of improprieties in the purchase of a house in Jerusalem.   In November, police recommended closing another case involving allegations that he tried to steer sale of the government's controlling stake in Bank Leumi in the direction of supporters. However, the new state attorney, Moshe Lador, has not decided whether to close the file.
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  Likud Begins Knesset Drive for New Elections    29 Nissan 5768, 04 May 08 07:57
by Hillel Fendel

    (IsraelNN.com) In light of the new criminal allegations against Prime Minister Olmert, which have been described as "severe," Likud MK Silvan Shalom and others have begun canvassing Knesset support for new elections. 
  Shalom said that new elections are a necessity, given the fact that this is the sixth police investigation against Olmert since he took office in early 2006. "Not to mention the latest escapade," Shalom added, "in which a Knesset Member was offered a Deputy-Ministership merely so that he would remain in the coalition."  The reference is to Pensioners MK Elchanan Glaser, who has since turned down the offer.
  Quiet in Kadima and Labor
MKs in Olmert's Kadima party have been, for the most part, silent on the new criminal allegations against the Prime Minister, which came to light on Friday.  All ears were turned to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Olmert's greatest potential challenger within the party, but she has said nothing.  
  Within the Labor Party, which is Kadima's largest coalition ally, calls for Olmert to resign - or, alternatively, for Labor to quit the government - are beginning to be heard.  Party leader Defense Minister Ehud Barak has not yet reacted publicly.  Back-bencher MK Shelly Yechimovitch, on the other hand, called immediately for Olmert to suspend himself, saying, "Israel cannot afford to have someone who is constantly being interrogated by the police at the helm of its regime."
  The ruling Kadima party has two other coalition allies - Shas and the Pensioners.  The former has been threatening to quit for months, while nearly half of the latter actually did just that over the weekend. 

Olmert's Pension Halved
Three of the Pensioner party's seven MKs have formed their own party, and declared that they are officially not part of the coalition. The new party is named "Justice for Pensioners," and is officially headed by Russian billionaire immigrant philanthropist Arcady Gaydamak.  The three-MK faction will be headed by Moshe Sharoni, who has long been at odds with Pensioners leader Rafi Eitan; the other two MKs are Elchanan Glaser and Sarah Marom-Shalev.
  Olmert thus faces not only increasingly severe criminal/legal problems, but also a diminishing government coalition, which now has only a 4-seat majority (64 MKs out of 120 Knesset mandates).
  A gag order has been placed on the latest criminal investigation against Ehud Olmert, although the Justice Ministry will reconsider it next week.  Police and other sources say the allegations include the most serious charges, and are accompanied by the most damning evidence, ever raised against Olmert. The police rushed to interrogate him on Friday morning under caution, to limit chances that he would coordinate his testimony with others, and announced that they will interrogate him again.
  Even if the evidence justifies an indictment against Olmert, the process will clearly take many months. An indictment of a Prime Minister requires special approval from the Attorney General.  For this reason, a change in the government, if it occurs, is not likely to be the result of judicial/legal developments, but rather political.  It is assumed that Olmert will either call new elections on his own, or his government will be toppled in a no-confidence motion.
  In the meanwhile, Olmert is broadcasting "business as usual," and plans to meet with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice later Sunday.  


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