Agence France-Presse - 9/21/2008 8:45 AM GMT
Israel's Olmert resigns amid lingering turmoil
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced his resignation on Sunday, but the political uncertainty gripping Israel and casting a shadow over US-backed Middle East peace talks is far from over.
"I have decided to end my functions as prime minister of the government of Israel," Olmert told a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, days after Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was elected leader of their centrist Kadima party.
"I hope that Tzipi Livni will succeed in forming a national government with the composition she wants," Olmert said in remarks broadcast on television. "For my part I will help her with all my strength."
Olmert must still submit his resignation to President Shimon Peres, who will grant Livni 42 days to form a new government and avert snap general elections, which polls indicate would bring the right-wing Likud party to power.
Olmert is meanwhile likely to stay on as interim premier until a new government is sworn in, which could take several months.
The Kadima leadership result confirms Livni's meteoric rise to become the most powerful woman in Israel and could now see her follow in the footsteps of Golda Meir, the country's first woman prime minister.
The turmoil unleashed by several graft allegations dogging Olmert threatens to derail already sluggish US-backed peace talks with the Palestinians that were relaunched last November but have made little tangible progress since.
Olmert has been battling a wave of corruption allegations for several months, and on July 30 he said he would step down once a new leader was chosen in the unprecedented party vote.
As foreign minister, Livni has led negotiations with the Palestinians, which were formally relaunched 10 months ago with the stated goal of ending the decades-old conflict by the end of the year.
But the two sides remain deeply divided on core issues, including final borders, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the future status of Jerusalem and the fate of some 4.6 million Palestinian refugees.
The negotiations could complicate Livni's efforts to form a new coalition, with the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party -- a key partner in Olmert's administration -- having vowed to quit the government if Jerusalem is even discussed.
Shas leader Eli Yishai also called for a big rise in family grants, something Livni has up to now rejected.
The Palestinians want mostly-Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Six Day War, as the capital of their future state.
Israel, however, considers the entire city to be its "eternal, undivided" capital, a claim not recognised by the international community.
Israeli Protesters Demand That Prime Minister Resign
Washington Post Foreign Service Friday, May 4, 2007
TEL AVIV, May 3 -- Tens of thousands of Israelis assembled Thursday in Rabin Square, the customary venue for this country's public soul-searching, to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over his alleged mismanagement of the war in Lebanon last summer.
But the crowd appeared smaller than organizers had predicted, highlighting the sense of complacency that many of Olmert's sharpest critics contend has swept Israel during a time of prosperity at home and enduring threats abroad.
Tens of thousands of Israelis pack Tel Aviv's Rabin Square to call for Ehud Olmert to step down over his handling of the war with Lebanon. Judging by past rallies in the square, the crowd appeared to number slightly more than 100,000 people, about half the turnout forecast by some organizers. Effie Eitam, a lawmaker from the opposition National Union party who helped plan the event, said more than 150,000 demonstrators were on hand.
Those who gathered in the warm Mediterranean evening, many emblazoned with stickers saying "Olmert Go Home" and "Elections Now," appeared to be an accurate reflection of the religious and secular, the hawks and doves, the old and young who make up the country's diverse electorate.
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