Israel's Olmert Calls 'Time Out'

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert departs Monday evening for a week in the United States in what some analysts are calling a "time out" for the beleaguered head of state under criminal investigation.

At a meeting Sunday with members of his Kadima party, Olmert played down last week's calls for his resignation by Defense Minister and Labor party chairman Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, among others.

Sources close to the prime minister said he has no intention of spearheading a move for general elections in November and prefers to let his political rivals duke it out among themselves while his attorneys prepare their cross examination of American financier Morris Talansky in two weeks.

Meanwhile, he'll spend a week meeting with US heads of state and affluent Jewish American leaders.

On Sunday, Olmert's colleagues, including Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, criticized Barak and Livni for consulting strategist Reuven Adler, who also advised former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"Barak and Livni are Reuven Adler's marionettes and they are ready to play this role because they are interested in gaining power," Mofaz said. Mofaz is also interested in being the next leader of Kadima, with an eye toward the premiership.

According to Mofaz, Barak's call for Olmert to step down stems from problems within Labor.

"Because of his problems in the Labor party, he tried to interfere with what is happening in Kadima, but he failed," Mofaz said.

"He did the wrong thing by trying to dictate timetables to us," he said. "Tzipi Livni also made a mistake, and I hope she doesn't repeat it," said Mofaz.

While Mofaz would like to see Kadima hold its first primary in early September, he said he wants to give Olmert time "to prove his innocence."

But Kadima leaders say it is highly unlikely that Olmert will be ousted as chairman due to the party's statutes.

In a related matter, National Fraud Unit detectives will travel to the United States this week to track down the money trail of other American donors.

"They're going to check who is behind the big money that Talansky raised," said former Israel Police chief investigator Cmdr. (ret.) Moshe Mizrahi.

"Talansky acted as fundraiser, funneling other people's funds to Olmert. The police need to identify those other donors and find out what interests they represented," he said.

"They will look at why these donors wanted Olmert to intervene for them," he said, adding that police "still do not know who they are."

Mizrachi said police are on the verge of recommending that Olmert be indicted for violation of public trust, while investigation of bribery charges will take longer.

Meanwhile, some Israelis see Olmert's trip to the States as a further embarrassment for Israel, adding to the nation's disgrace, and providing fodder for the international media.

While the prime minister will try to appear statesmanlike before the press this week, most of his constituency would like to see him sidelined.

But Olmert loves the limelight, preferring to postpone what many believe is his inevitable departure from office.

What might have been a semi-graceful departure may evolve into an extended toxic quest for personal political survival.

Sources: Haaretz, YNet news, The Jerusalem Post

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CBN News - Jerusalem Bureau

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