By Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, Oct. 17 (Xinhua) -- A possible comeback by former prime minister Ehud Olmert has hit a snag as the State Prosecutor' s Office on Tuesday announced that it will appeal Olmert's acquittal in a recent corruption case.
Olmert was prime minister between 2006-2009 before stepping down amid accusations of tax evasion, breach of trust and fraud. However, in July 2012 he was acquitted on two cases of corruption by the Jerusalem District Court but was found guilty in breach of public trust for improperly securing grants and tax breaks while ministering to clients of long-time friend and colleague Uri Messer.
Speculation that Olmert might return to politics picked up speed after the Knesset on Monday approved a bill calling for earlier elections to be held on January 22, 2012.
"Even if Olmert decides to run things wouldn't be any different, " Prof. Eran Vigoda-Gadot of the University of Haifa told Xinhua on Wednesday.
Vigoda-Gadot added that while it's not clear that the continued legal proceeding would bar or hinder Olmert from taking part in the elections. Netanyahu will form the next government; since nobody is rising up against him with a realistic chance of putting things differently.
NATANYAHU TO REMAIN IN PLACE
Opinion polls shows that incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who initiated the earlier elections, would retain his post as his Likud party would become the largest party in the parliament.
Vigoda-Gadot argued that in the Israeli political landscape Netanyahu is the only one that has a chance of becoming prime minister and that neither Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich nor Yair Lapid of the Future (Yesh Atid) party has any chance of changing this.
The center-left side of the Israeli political spectrum is currently made up of three parties, the Labor party headed by Yachimovich, the Yesh Atid (future) party formed earlier this year by media personality Lapid and Kadima, Olmert's former party.
Olmert does hold one distinct advantage over both Lapid and Yachimovich - which has given rise to the speculation that he could lead a center-left coalition - the fact he served as prime minister and before that as the major of Jerusalem. In both these functions he proved he was able to build coalitions, a vital skill in Israeli politics, as all government are coalition governments.
The fact that a recent poll in the Haaretz newspaper indicated that 57 percent of Israeli sees Netanyahu as the best candidate from prime minister, with former Kadima chairwomen Tzipi Livni, who isn't running, in second place with 26 percent is just one indication of how safe Netanyahu's position is.
Prof. Gideon Rahat of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem said that one shouldn't focus too much on possible candidates for prime minister.
"Olmert is seen as one of the potential leaders of the center- left block but elections in Israel aren't for the prime minister, elections are for political parties and at the end of the day these political parties form a coalition," Rahat said.
Kadima is currently the largest party in the Knesset but recent opinions polls showed that the party could lose up to two-thirds of the mandates it gained in 2009, if it goes to elections under current chairman Shaul Mofaz.
In 2009 the party was led by Tzipi Livni but in May 2012 she lost the chairmanship of the party to Mofaz. Later same month Mofaz joined Netanyahu's coalition government to form what was referred to in Israeli media as a "super-coalition", but it lasted only 34 days.
The political zigzagging by Mofaz and the loss of Livni, who was very popular at the time of the elections, are believed to be the two main reasons for the drop in support for Kadima. However, should Olmert return the fortunes of the party might very well change.
Especially since Mofaz said that he would be willing to step down as party leader in case Olmert chooses to return to politics and if Olmert does return he is likely to take Livni with him.
"There are people who don't like either Likud or Labor and are in-between them in a way, so for these votes Lapid is fighting, Labor and Likud would also try to convince them and maybe Livni if she has her own party and maybe other forces," he added.
However, a strong Yesh Atid wouldn't necessarily result in a strong opposition. Rahat noted that while Lapid hasn't said that he won't join a Netanyahu lead government after the elections, he wouldn't do so if such a government includes the ultra-orthodox parties that are part of the government.