Embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be escaping the spotlight in Israel this week as he flies to Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush. He will also meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before he leaves.
Olmert’s days may be numbered as a corruption probe surrounding the prime minister continues to widen. Talks of a primary in his Kadima party circulated all weekend while a poll Friday showed that Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu would win national elections if Olmert was ousted. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would come in second with Defense Minister Ehud Barak third.
Despite reports that he would be okay with it, Olmert said he opposes early primary elections in his party. An Olmert aide told ynet that the prime minister plans to “fight for his innocence.”
The prime minister was expected to ask Kadima ministers to wait for his return before any elections were held. Olmert reportedly wants to wait for his lawyers to cross examine Morris Talansky, the American financier who allegedly gave Olmerts thousands of dollars in cash.
Livni, who called for primary elections last week, is trying to keep the subject of primaries on the agenda. “Our main goal is to keep making headlines and to bring as many people as possible to support the primaries,” an aide said.
Olmert will meet with Palestinians for the first time since news of the corruption allegations made headlines. Monday’s talks would include a the idea of a permanent peace agreement and Egyptian attempts to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.