Olmert refuses to suspend himself despite possible indictment
www.chinaview.cn 2008-11-28 04:36:54   Print

Special report: Palestine-Israel Relations

°§Olmert said Thursday he did not plan to suspend himself despite possible indictment.
°§Earlier on Thursday, Livni urged the premier to suspend himself immediately.
°§On Wednesday, Mazuz said he is considering an indictment against the premier.

    JERUSALEM, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that he did not plan to suspend himself despite possible indictment.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attends the weekly cabinet meeting in his office in Jerusalem Nov. 16, 2008.(Xinhua/Reuters, File Photo)
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    Olmert made the remarks in response to Israel's ruling Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who said earlier that Olmert should suspend himself immediately in light of the indictment facing him over the Rishon Tours scandal.

    "I have important things to do," the premier, who has just returned from a trip to the United States, was quoted by local news service Ynet as saying after leaving a meeting he held on the financial crisis with opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu and the coalition factions.

    Olmert said he believed Livni and the Kadima Knesset (parliament) members were taking advantage of the announcement made by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, who said he is considering indicting the premier on the accusations against him in the RishonTours double-billing affair.

    Meanwhile, Olmert's affiliates said Livni's interest in putting herself on the prime minister's seat before the February general election is what drove her to call for Olmert's suspension.

    Earlier on Thursday, Livni, who is also the foreign minister, convened an emergency meeting of Kadima to discuss the repercussions of a possible indictment against Olmert, urging the premier to suspend himself immediately.

    "Kadima was formed to wave the banner of clean governance," Livni was quoted by local daily The Jerusalem Post as saying at the meeting at Kadima's Petah Tikva headquarters. "The prime minister like anyone else in Israel is innocent until proven guilty, but citizen Olmert should fight from his home and not from the position of prime minister."

    "Israel cannot tolerate having a prime minister who has been indicted. It is a moral, ethical and practical test. The prime minister must suspend itself. There is no other option," she said.

    If Olmert, who resigned in September over corruption probe and became a caretaker premier, would suspend himself, Livni would automatically take over as acting prime minister due to her position as vice premier.

    Such a move would benefit Livni ahead of the general election, because it would allow her to run from the Prime Minister's Office against her main rivals, said The Jerusalem Post.

    In response to Livni's comments, Olmert's spokesman Amir Dan reiterated that the caretaker premier had no intention of suspending himself.

    Mark Regev, also Olmert's spokesman, said in September after Olmert's resignation that even if Olmert would be indicted during the caretaking period, he would not resign again.

    "The politicians who are calling upon him to quit are doing so for political reasons," Dan told Israel Radio. "All the people who say they are calling upon him to quit based on what is good for the country should want him to stay in power because he is the only one who can run the country without regard to political considerations."

    On Wednesday, Mazuz told Olmert that he is considering an indictment against the premier for allegedly using state funds from multiple state bodies to finance private trips abroad.

    In the double-billing affair, which is also known as the Rishon Tours affair, named after the travel agency, Olmert was alleged for paying for both of his own and his family's private flights by money obtained fraudulently from public bodies when serving as Jerusalem mayor and then as industry, trade and labor minister from 2003 to 2006.

    Olmert might face charges of fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records, failure to report an income and receiving illegal benefits, to which an aggravated circumstances clause applies.

    However, the decision by Mazuz to indict Olmert still depends on the outcome of a hearing between Mazuz and Olmert and his lawyers, the Justice Ministry said Wednesday in a statement, adding that the hearing would be held at a time agreed upon by both sides.

    If the experience of former Israeli president Moshe Katsav is anything to go by, Olmert's hearing should take place in about four months, said The Jerusalem Post.

Livni urges Olmert to suspend himself in wake of possible indictment

    JERUSALEM, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Israel's ruling Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni Thursday urged Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to suspend himself immediately in light of the indictment facing him over the Rishon Tours scandal.

    Livni, who is also the foreign minister, convened an emergency meeting of Kadima on Thursday to discuss the repercussions of a potential indictment against Olmert. Full story

Israel's Livni calls for early general election 

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    Livni, also Israel's foreign minister, made the announcement at a press conference held at the president's residence in Jerusalem, where she arrived at 5 p.m. (1500 GMT) to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Full story

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni, also ruling Kadima chairwoman, announced on Sunday that she failed to form a coalition and called for early general elections.

Israeli Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni, also ruling Kadima chairwoman, speaks to the media after meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the later's residence in Jerusalem, Oct. 26, 2008. Livni told Israeli President Shimon Peres on Sunday that she failed to form a coalition and called for an early general election. (Xinhua Photo)
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