Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he plans to step down as prime
minister in September. VOA's Jim Teeple has the details from our
In a surprise announcement from his
residence in Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert says he will step down as Israel's
prime minister immediately after his Kadima Party selects a new leader
at a party convention on September 17.
Mr. Olmert says he
will not run in the Kadima Party primary and he will leave office once
a new leader is chosen. He says he hopes a new party leader will be
able to put together an effective government once he leaves office.
Olmert's decision follows months of mounting political pressure, and an
official police inquiry into whether or not he accepted hundreds of
thousands of dollars of illegal payments from a U.S. citizen long
involved in political fundraising for Israel's right-wing Likud Party.
allegations concern Mr. Olmert when he was a member of the Likud Party
serving as mayor of Jerusalem, and as a cabinet member in the
government of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Mr. Olmert has
strenuously denied the allegations and has survived several other
probes into his conduct since he became prime minister in 2006.
Sheafer who teaches politics at Jerusalem's Hebrew University says
there are at least two reasons behind Mr. Olmert's surprise
"There are polls that consistently show that
even if Mr. Olmert did run he would have no chance to win the Kadima
Party primary," said Sheafer. "Another reason is that we know there is
a dispute among his legal advisors, with some of them arguing the best
strategy for him is to resign to fight the allegations against him."
race to succeed Ehud Olmert began even before he made his announcement
to step down. Two of his cabinet colleagues,
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz have
said they will run for the post.
Whoever wins the contest will
be faced with forming a coalition government. Most analysts say any
such government will not last long and new national elections will
likely take place early next year.