Israel’s Olmert to Resign in September

I’m not savvy enough in Israeli politics to know how this will effects things completely, but I do know that no one I’ve talked to likes Olmert. Maybe the next person will be better.

Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced on Wednesday he would step down in September after a party leadership vote, announcing the end of a premiership dogged by graft investigations.

“After the election of my successor I will step down to allow a government to be formed rapidly,” he said, after declaring he would not run in the centrist Kadima party election due in mid-September.

The surprise announcement marks the apex of a political storm raised after police launched an investigation in May over suspicions he had accepted vast sums of money from a US businessman in order to finance elections campaigns and a lavish lifestyle in the 13 years before he became premier in 2006.

It also casts a long shadow on peacemaking efforts with the Palestinians and with Israel’s longtime foe Syria.

Olmert, 62, who has been premier since 2006, has admitted he had accepted money from Morris Talansky in the latest corruption probe against him, but has denied any wrongdoing.

State Prosecutor Moshe Lador last week said that he would decide whether to indict Olmert over the Talansky affair “very soon.”

Talansky said in his May testimony that he had given Olmert cash-stuffed envelopes on multiple occasions to cover expenses for his stays in the United States and pay for his election campaigns as Jerusalem mayor and Likud MP.

In a fierce cross-examination earlier this month Olmert’s lawyers called Talansky a liar and uncovered several contradictions in his testimony but the 75-year-old Jewish-American financier insisted his overall story was accurate.

The latest investigation led local media and opposition parties to renew their calls for the resignation of Olmert, who is currently facing a total of six corruption probes.

It sparked similar calls from within his fragile governing coalition and his centrist Kadima party.

Last month Labour party chief Ehud Barak, a key coalition partner, pushed Olmert to schedule an unprecedented party primary by threatening to support a bill to dissolve parliament.

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