Mofaz said willing to step aside for Olmert as Kadima leader

Former PM holds series of meetings with potential allies as he weighs political comeback

Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert at a cabinet meeting in 2007 (photo credit: Flash90)
Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert at a cabinet meeting in 2007 (photo credit: Flash90)

Current opposition leader Shaul Mofaz was reported Thursday to be willing to stand aside as Kadima party head in favor of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, if Olmert decides to mount a comeback to contest the January 22 elections.

Olmert met Thursday with several political figures, including Mofaz, who is all but urging Olmert to make a comeback, Channel 2 reported, and would certainly step aside for him, given the pitiful showing of Kadima in opinion polls.

Under Tzipi Livni’s leadership, Kadima won 28 seats in the February 2009 elections, to become the biggest party in the outgoing parliament, followed by Netanyahu’s Likud with 27 seats. A poll in Maariv on Thursday, by contrast, showed Kadima heading for six seats in January’s elections under Mofaz’s leadership, while a Haaretz survey gave it seven seats. Likud is set for 29 seats, both polls indicated.

The Maariv poll indicated that a party led by Olmert and/or Livni would win 10 seats in the elections, but it was not clear whether respondents were asked about Olmert leading Kadima into the elections. Olmert has reportedly commissioned several surveys to assess whether a comeback was worthwhile. He was said to be awaiting further statistics before making a decision, and was also assessing potential legal hurdles to a comeback.

Olmert is also said to have had discussions in recent days with Livni, and to have met with the previous chief of the General Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi. His internal surveys, especially in a potential alliance with Livni and Mofaz in a revived Kadima, “unsurprisingly” predict rather better results than the published polls for Olmert should he run, Channel 2 said.

Olmert was forced to resign as prime minister to battle a series of corruption allegations — prompting the elections that brought Netanyahu to power. Olmert was convicted of breach of trust in July, and given a suspended jail term last month, but that punishment was not so severe as to bar him from a return to the Knesset. He is still on trial in a real-estate corruption case, could face an appeal from the state attorney in two major fraud cases for which he was acquitted, and may face legal challenges to any attempt at a political return.

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