Olmert May Quit and Name Mofaz as PM To Weaken Livni

Olmert might suspend himself prior to Kadima leadership primaries and name Mofaz as temporary Prime Minister in order to weaken Livni.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu,

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is considering suspending himself and naming Transportation and Road Safety Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) to replace him, Israeli media reported Saturday night. Taking the action before Kadima's September leadership primaries would diminish the chances of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in her bid to become the next Prime Minister, according to the Hebrew news site NFC. The winner of the primaries will have the mandate to retain the current government coalition.

Channel One television also reported that Prime Minister Olmert might quit in an effort to weaken Foreign Minister Livni, whom Olmert recently called a "backstabbing liar" in private conversations.

NFC said that Prime Minister Olmert has discussed the tactic with his close friend, Vice Prime Minister Chaim Ramon. The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Livni have been at odds since the Second Lebanon War, and he has accused of her lying to the Winograd Commission, which investigated the government's management of the war.

Prime Minister Olmert said in a private conversation last week that she is not fit to run the government and cannot make major decisions.

Foreign Minister Livni has been ahead in the polls surveying Kadima voters, who will decide in September who will lead the party, but Transportation Minister Mofaz has almost closed the gap completely. He is considered a hawk in the Kadima party and frequently has challenged the Olmert administration's dovish stance towards terrorist attacks and in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

However, Foreign Minister Livni has been more outgoing in her criticism of Prime Minister Olmert, insinuating last year that it would be appropriate for him to resign in light of the report of the Winograd Committee.

Prime Minister Olmert has not ruled out running, but barring a dramatic turnaround in his favor, the criminal investigations against him and his waning popularity have made it increasingly doubtful that he can remain in power.