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article imageIsraeli PM Olmert Steps Down Over Corruption Charges

By David Birchall     Jul 31, 2008 in Politics
Ehud Olmert has called for leadership elections in Israel as he vows to fight the corruption charges that have dogged his premiership.
The charges range from bribery to fraud and have come to dominate his leadership. This resignation seemed inevitable in the face of constant criticism that seriously undermined his rule. Today he faces a fourth round of questioning into the myriad allegations facing him.
Following his resignation Olmert said:
I will step aside properly in an honourable and responsible way, and afterwards I will prove my innocence. From my first day in office I was forced to defend myself against relentless attacks from self-appointed 'fighters for justice' who sought to depose me from my position, when the ends sanctified all the means.
Though he protests his innocence, these charges are harming him and his party. Uri Dromi, an Israeli commentator, described him as a "lame duck" president.
A new leader will be chosen in September. The two frontrunners at this stage represent two very different ideological positions. The foreign minister Tzipi Livni is the centrist option, and one that has the mass support of her Kadima party. She led the most recent peace talks with Palestine, but recently, and perhaps with one eye on this leadership election, she has urged a military response to the continuing rocket attacks from Gaza.
Shaul Mofaz - the transport minister - is the other strong candidate. Known for a heavy handed approach as the Chief of Staff some years ago, he remains ever-willing to put aggressive military tactics on the table. Most recently he claimed that Israel would attack a nuclear Iran.
However a general election will probably occur within the next few months. This could well hand power to Binyamin Netanyahu. He leads the right-wing Likud party and has triumphed in recent polls. His foreign policy could be similar to that of Mofaz.
On these events a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas seemed unconcerned, stating that the Palestinian president considered Olmert's decision an "internal Israeli matter", adding: "The Palestinian Authority deals with the prime minister of Israel, regardless if he is Olmert or somebody else."
Olmert's premiership, like so many before him, has been one of near total deadlock in peace talks with thier neighbours.
More about Corruption, Israel, Olmert, Middle East
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