Cabinet ministers and coalition partners are hurrying to get their ducks in line as the storm clouds gather in the latest investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Even US President George W. Bush has recognized the winds of change.

Bush’s long-heralded trip to Israel in which he hoped to crown 60th Independence Day celebrations with significant progress toward a final status agreement between the Jewish State and the Palestinian Authority was hastily reworked in light of the allegations.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is convinced Olmert will have no choice but to leave office, according to an aide quoted by the Reuters news agency.  The source said Barak has knowledge of details of the current criminal investigation and that the case is serious enough that the Prime Minister will be forced to quit.

The chairman of the Labor Party, who is not a member of the Knesset at this time, is reportedly weighing his options carefully.

Publicly, the Defense Minister is carrying out business as usual and declaring that the Prime Minister is innocent until proven guilty. But privately Barak has been quietly discussing the issue of when to topple the government.

“Barak has little doubt that Olmert is on his way out, but the question is: Elections now, or later?” the source told Reuters.

If Labor, the second largest party in the coalition, pulls out of the government and forces new elections, Likud Party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to lead his party to a victory. Such a scenario would likely mean a nationalist/religious coalition, leaving Labor out of the government.

If Labor remains, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as Acting Prime Minister, is the most likely candidate to take over the reins should Olmert be forced out. Labor might negotiate a deal in which it would rotate leadership of the coalition with Kadima – but Barak would be unable to serve as Prime Minister as long as he is not an MK.

In either scenario, Barak comes up empty on the personal front: as matters stand, he would be unable to return to his former position as Prime Minister.