Sunday, 29 June 2008

Has Barak become Olmert's puppy?

PressTV's Middle East Today takes a closer look at the relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak.
Barak has twice threatened to bring down the government of Olmert, and twice backed down. PressTV Middle East Today asks, why?

For the past several months Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been fighting for his political life, plagued by corruption scandals and internal power plays, but as one analyst said – like a magician he keeps pulling those rabbits out of the hat. Another described him as the ultimate political survivor – despite polling single digit popularity.

He survived the latest challenge after he was thrown a lifeline by his Defense Minister and political rival, Ehud Barak, who said he would keep his Labor Party in the government coalition and drop a bill calling for the dissolution of parliament, if Olmert agreed to hold a internal Kadima Party primary election on his leadership in September.

But it may be premature to write Olmert’s political obituary. According to a poll in a local newspaper, if the vote were held today, Ohmert would win only about 22 percent of the vote, losing out to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who would take 31 percent, and Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, with 23 percent.

His fate, apparently, depends on the ability of his lawyers to undermine the testimony of American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky, who is due to make a second appearance in court on July 17th.

If lawyers manage to refute allegations that Talansky gave Olmert more than 150-thousand dollars in alleged illegal cash payments, the poll suggested it could dramatically effect the power struggle within Kadima, leaving Olmert in the chairman’s seat.

In any event, even if he loses the poll, he could remain Prime Minister, because there is nothing in the Kadima bylaws that would force him to step down.

This is the second time that Ehud Barak has threatened to wreck the coalition and bring down the government. He said that if he was to remain only as Defense Minister he would withdraw the Labor Party from the coalition. But he eventually backed down.

Barak – despite being Olmerts obvious political rival, seems reluctant to carry through his threats.

Some analysts have suggested there may be ulterior motives for Barak’s reluctance to bring down the government at this time.

He has previously said he would only give up the premiership if indicted for criminal actions linked to the corruption case.

By hook or by crook – he seems determined to hang onto the reins of power – and his ability to do so, was the basis of our discussion on this edition of Middle East Today.

Watch "Personal ambition and partisan politics" here on the PressTV archive

((After overcoming technical difficulties, the 19th June edition of Middle East Today on the Gaza truce is now available online here))

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