Olmert says center-left rifts kept him from from reentering politics


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told an Israeli television news magazine that he decided not to run in the upcoming elections due to rifts in the center-left political camp.

The former head of the Kadima Party also threw his support behind current Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz during an interview Saturday night on Israel Channel Two’s "Meet the Press."

Olmert said he faced the most pressure of his political life to run in the Jan. 22 elections, but added, "I was never close to coming back, and I never told any writers I was running.”

Olmert said the only politician he spoke to about a political comeback was former Kadima head Tzipi Livni. According to Olmert, Livni said she would be willing to be his No. 2 on a political list.  He called Livni, who ultimately formed her own new party called Hatnua, or the movement, "deserving of the job" of prime minister, but called Mofaz "very deserving of the job."

Mofaz, Olmert said, "is a serious public figure and someone who courageously stood at the head of Israel’s security.”

Olmert called the announcement of a plan to build 3,000 apartments in the E1 corridor connecting Jerusalem to the large Maale Adumim settlement "a kind of slap in the face of the president of the United States."

"Netanyahu is isolating the State of Israel from entire world in an unprecedented way, and we are going to pay a difficult price for this in every aspect of our lives," he said of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Discussing the legal proceedings against him, Olmert said, "The court completely exonerated me."

"Everyone knows that I wasn’t acquitted out of reasonable doubt, I was acquitted by a unanimous decision of three judges," he said. 

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