Tzipi Livni called on the Kadima party to prepare for a post-Olmert era even as the prime minister vowed to stay in office.
Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, made her remarks Thursday, a day after Ehud Olmert’s top coalition partner, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, called on Olmert to take a leave of absence while the alleged bribery case involving U.S. businessman Morris Talansky runs its course.
Talansky told Israeli prosecutors Tuesday during a deposition that over the course of 15 years, he gave Olmert about $150,000 in undocumented cash handouts, some of which was meant to be a loan but was never returned.
Talansky finally returned to New York Wednesday night after being detained for questioning by Israeli police during a Passover visit to the Jewish state.
Livni is the front-runner to replace Olmert as head of the Kadima party.
“Kadima needs to take a decision on what it wants,” she told reporters in Jerusalem. “It needs to prepare now for all possible scenarios, including elections. These are the things I’ve been telling party and faction members. I’m working toward a clean, fast process.”
Earlier in the day, Olmert vowed to survive the Talansky affair as he has previous corruption probes.
“Be patient and Talansky’s statement will be refuted,” Olmert said, according to Israel Radio. “We will prove to you that these things never happened.”
Talansky is due back in Jerusalem District Court on July 17 to be cross-examined by the defense.
Justice Ministry sources said that nothing Talansky said in his deposition could be used against him in Israel, though the Internal Revenue Service may have questions about his movement of large sums of cash outside the United States.
There is little concern in Israel that Talansky may refuse to return, given his extensive family connections in the Jewish state.