Former prime minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday stressed what he saw as the imperative to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in elections on January 22, but did not endorse a specific candidate for the task.
In an interview with Channel 2 News, he said he’d “certainly prefer” his former foreign minister and successor as Kadima party leader, Tzipi Livni, to Netanyahu, adding that she was “deserving of the job.” But he also said that Livni’s successor, current Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, “is very deserving of the job.”
Livni is running at the head of a new party, Hatnua (The Movement), which is heading for fewer than 10 seats in most polls. Kadima may struggle to win any seats at all.
Olmert indicated that despite numerous statements to the contrary, he had not seriously intended to make a political comeback himself. “At no point was I close to making a political comeback, and I never told anybody that I was running,” he said. Even his grandchildren had urged him not to run. This was in part because of his ongoing legal battles — but also, he said, because the part of the political spectrum that reflects his views “is not a bloc where I want to be in the near future.”
In a separate interview with Ynet News, published Saturday, Olmert said he viewed the merger between Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s parties as “the most natural thing in the world,” since “they are as one.” He stated that Israel was being led by an “extreme right wing, garrulous” government that was “in confrontation with the entire international community,” adding that he hoped the center bloc would become strong enough to take its place.
Commenting on the State Attorney’s decision to appeal his acquittals in two major corruption cases, the Talansky and Rishon Tours affairs, Olmert told Channel 2 this was part of “an ongoing witch hunt by the State Attorney intended to influence the political process.”
In response, the State Attorney’s office rejected talk of a witch hunt as being “baseless and unfounded” and noted that all relevant senior legal personnel supported the decision to appeal.
Olmert is still on trial in the Holyland real estate scandal, and was convicted in July on a breach of trust offense.