Reports: Livni Getting Set to Replace Olmert

FM Livni is making political preparations to replace PM Olmert and the coalition partners may accept her. Livni is said to be "turning rightward."

Gil Ronen ,

FM Tzipi Livni.
FM Tzipi Livni.
(File photo)

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is making preparations for replacing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert if and when the latest bribery scandal forces him to resign, political analysts reported, even as Olmert's aides denied he had any intention of stepping down.

"The main scenario discussed yesterday in the political corridors, assuming Olmert does indeed leave or is made to leave, is that the Foreign Minister will replace him, in her capacity as Acting Prime Minister," right-of-center website Makor Rishon wrote Wednesday. While the Kadima party's regulations determine that a new party chairman must be chosen in primaries, Livni may circumvent the regulation by arguing time is pressing and stability is of cardinal importance.

Livni has offered no public backing for the Prime Minister in his time of trouble. According to the report, she is already making "careful and delicate" contact with the Kadima party's Knesset faction members in an attempt to secure their backing.

"If Olmert is forced to leave the Prime Minister's Bureau, all eyes will turn to one man: [Labor Party Chairman] Ehud Barak," wrote an analyst for Ynet. "If this scenario turns into reality, the Labor Chairman will have to reach a dramatic decision, which will lead to early elections," he estimated. "A Prime Minister's resignation will rock the political system, and Labor members are convinced that Barak will have to ride this shock wave in order to strengthen his status and his party, even if Likud turns out to be the big winner."
She is already making "careful and delicate" contact with Kadima's Knesset faction members in an attempt to secure their backing.

Other analysts believe that Ehud Barak will not rush to elections, since they will likely lead to a Likud Party victory.

According to Ynet's analysis, if Olmert resigns, Kadima's most senior members will back Livni as the "natural successor" at first. Things will then depend on Barak again: he may want to cut short her term in office in order to prevent her from consolidating her status as a leader, or he may reach the conclusion that she does not pose a threat either way. Another option which Barak may be mulling is a merger between Labor and Kadima. Some in the Left believe that such a merger would give them a better chance to defeat the Right. 

Livni wooing Shas?
Kadima's second major coalition partner, the Sephardic hareidi-religious Shas party, may also accept Livni. Livni's confidantes reportedly began wooing Shas – which opposes concessions to the Arabs in Jerusalem – by hinting Tuesday that Livni is not pleased with the way Olmert is handling the negotiations with the PA Arabs. The Foreign Minister's confidantes reportedly said that "red lines have been crossed" in the negotiations with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, "especially with regard to the question of refugees."

Anonymous Shas sources did not rule out the possibility of continuing in a coalition under Livni. "It is true that Livni has said some things about Religion and State that do not completely line up with our views, but we should listen to what she has been saying recently," the source said. "If Livni is Acting Prime Minister, it is unlikely that we will rock the boat," the source said.