1. PROFILE: Ehud Olmert – Second-in-command takes the helm

Friday, January 13, 2006 | 
With Prime Minister Ariel Sharon incapacitated by a stroke and brain hemorrhaging, his powers have been transferred to his deputy, the Finance Minister Ehud Olmert.

Olmert, 60, assumed office on Jan. 5 and will continue in the post until elections on March 28. He was recently nominated as a candidate for the second slot on the new list for Sharon’s new political party, Kadima.

During the withdrawal from Gaza, Olmert was Sharon’s staunchest defender, even attacking political opponents in his own Likud party. Despite his recent dovish stances, Olmert was opposed to withdrawing from land captured in the Six-Day War in 1967 and had voted against the Camp David Peace Accords in 1978.

Olmert was born in 1945 in Binyamina, in the northern Carmel region. He served in the Israeli army as combat infantry unit officer and was a correspondent for the military journal. He attended Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he earned degrees in psychology, philosophy and law. He later ran a law firm in Jerusalem.

Olmert was first elected to the Knesset in 1973 at the age of 28 and was re-elected seven consecutive times. He joined the Likud party in 1985.

As former health minister in the early 1990s, Olmert began the transformation of state-owned hospitals into public corporations – a far-reaching reform.

In November 1993, Olmert was elected mayor of Jerusalem and resigned from the Knesset in 1998. As mayor, he devoted himself to improving the education system and developing the transportation infrastructure.

He resigned during his second term as mayor in February 2003 after his re-election to the Knesset. He was appointed vice prime minister and labor minister. On Aug. 7, 2005, Olmert was appointed as acting finance minister to replace Benjamin Netanyahu who resigned in protest against the planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Olmert is currently the head of twelve ministries – eight that were formerly under Sharon. He lives in Jerusalem is married to Alisa and has four children.

POLITICAL CAREER 1973: Elected to the Knesset
1988-1990: Minister for minority affairs
1990-1992: Health minister
1993-2003: Mayor of Jerusalem
2003: Named Deputy prime minister
2003-2004: Communications minister
Aug 2005: Finance minister
Jan 2006: Acting prime minister

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