A day after Ehud Olmert announced that he would not run for re-election, Benjamin Netanyahu called for new general elections.
Netanyahu, the opposition leader of the right-wing Likud Party, took to the airwaves the morning after the Israeli prime minister announced he would resign when a new Kadima Party head was elected in September, to urge new elections as soon as possible.
“This government has reached an end … it doesn’t matter who heads Kadima. They are all partners in this government’s total failure,” Netanyahu told Israeli Radio Thursday.
In a surprise address Wednesday evening, Olmert announced that he would not run in his party’s primaries.
“I will not run for the primaries of Kadima, I will not interfere in internal elections,” Olmert said. “I will gladly welcome the result. When a new party leader is elected, I will resign as prime minister to allow the new head to set up a new government quickly.”
Olmert said his highest priority until he resigns would be to achieve peace.
“Beyond all this I continue to believe with all my heart that achieving peace, stopping terrorism, strengthening security and creating different relations with our neighbors are the most vital goals for the future of the State of Israel,” Olmert said “We are closer than ever to concrete understandings that are likely to be the basis for agreements in the two strands of dialogue, the Palestinian and the Syrian.” Olmert is the subject of several corruption investigations and has been under pressure from his colleagues to resign. He called the allegations a “witch hunt” and said his enemies were using the justice system to undermine the democratic process.
Several opinion polls, including one conducted by Israel’s Channel 10, show that Netanyahu and the Likud Party would win new elections.
Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon, who is close to Olmert, has said he believes that Olmert’s successor will have a hard time forming a new government and that new elections are likely.