Israel: Olmert corruption scandal grows

olmertbarakmay28

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would use his considerable power to topple the coalition government, if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not step aside to face corruption allegations.

Although Barak stopped short of setting a firm deadline, his comments make it extremely difficult for Olmert to stay in power. If Barak’s Labour Party withdraws from the coalition, Olmert would lose his parliamentary majority and the country would be forced to hold new elections.

Bernard Avishai, contributing editor of Harvard Business Review and author of the recent book “The Hebrew Republic” comments.

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Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Issuing a tough ultimatum to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would use his considerable power to topple the coalition government if the Israeli leader does not step aside to face corruption allegations. Israeli prosecutors are investigating tens of thousands of dollars in donations collected by Olmert before becoming prime minister in 2006. They suspect he may have violated campaign finance laws or accepted bribes.

(CLIP BEGINS)

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER AND LABOR PARTY LEADER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): In light of the situation and the weight of the challenges that the state of Israel faces, the Hamas and the Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, the captive soldiers and the peace process, I don’t think the prime minister can at the same time lead the government and handle his own affairs.

(CLIP ENDS)

Although Barak stopped short of setting a firm deadline, his comments make it extremely difficult for Olmert to stay in power. If Barak’s Labour Party withdraws from the coalition, Olmert would lose his parliamentary majority, and the country would be forced to hold new elections.

(CLIP BEGINS)

DR. YUVAL STEINITZ, LIKUD PARTY MEMBER: It is another attempt by the defense minister, Ehud Barak, to earn time, to make tricks, rather than doing the only rational thing—to go immediately for early elections.

(CLIP ENDS)

The Real News Network spoke with Bernard Avishai, contributing editor of Harvard Business Review, and the author of the recent book The Hebrew Republic.

BERNARD AVISHAI, PHD, AUTHOR OF THE HEBREW REPUBLIC: I don’t think Barak is trying to force elections. I think quite the contrary. I think what he would like is for Olmert to step aside as leader of Kadima and allow Kadima to appoint a new leader, most likely Tzipi Livni, who is now the foreign minister, so that Kadima and Labour can continue to govern together for the, you know, next year and a half or so, and during that time try to bring some kind of peace deal with the Syrians, and perhaps a statement of principle leading to a peace deal with the Palestinians. Unless this centrist Labour-Kadima coalition produces something along those lines, it’s almost inevitable that Netanyahu will win the next election. So Barak is not really interested in precipitating a new election now in advance of any diplomatic breakthrough. Now, having said that, I think it’s also important to understand that if Olmert goes and some interim prime minister like Tzipi Livni is appointed, I think that’ll be pretty good for a peace deal. I think Tzipi Livni would be a much more attractive face of a peace deal. More people would trust it.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy