JERUSALEM Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a special press conference on Wednesday, July 30, to announce that he will not run in the Kadima primary scheduled to take place in September, adding that he would resign from office upon selection of a successor, and would allow his successor to attempt to form a coalition.
Kadimas election committee decided on Tuesday to set an Aug. 24 deadline to join the race, which it scheduled for Sept. 17.
The winner in the Kadima primary will have until Oct. 26 to submit his new government for approval by President Shimon Peres.
In case the elected leader fails, the president customarily grants another 90 days to form a government; after the 90 days are through, in case no coalition is formed, a general election is scheduled, thus potentially allowing Olmert to remain in power until March, 2009.
After the primary Olmert will remain in office as prime minister of a transitional government, until his successor in Kadima manages to forge a new coalition or until general elections are held.
The premier lashed out at his political adversaries without naming any of them either from Kadima or other parties personally.
Olmert opened his speech by expressing his pride to be a citizen of Israel: As a citizen in a democracy I have always believed that when a person is elected prime minister in Israel, even those who opposed him in the ballot want him to succeed.
But instead, I found myself subjected to constant investigations and criticism. Almost from day one, I had to repel personal attacks and postpone decisions that are pertinent to the security of the State.
Olmert then proceeded to recount the successes of his premiership, saying Israels position has improved.
The North enjoys tranquility; Israels deterrence has immeasurably improved. I am proud of these achievements. In the social-economic field, we have maintained a stable economy and made some impressive progress. We have increased the war on poverty, allotted a bigger budget for education, increased welfare payments for the elderly, took care of Holocaust survivors.
We have reached a positive record in the number of unemployed citizens. Unemployment is under 6%, as compared with 10.5% three years ago, Olmert said.
Turning to foreign policy, Olmert said we are closer than ever to understandings which can serve as a basis for agreement on both [diplomatic] tracks: the Palestinian and the Syrian. So long as I will continue to serve as prime minister, I will not hold back my efforts to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion that would offer hope.
As prime minister I carry the supreme responsibility for every decision. There are many excellent men in the country, and with them I have led [Israel] to some tremendous achievements. Many of those are unknown to the public, but only to myself and those who shared the decision making process.
Olmert then attacked his rivals. All the while, I fought self appointed justice seekers, who have not eschewed any means in their efforts to undermine me. Things are totally out of proportion, he said.
Have I made mistakes throughout my long years of activity? Definitely yes, he said, and I regret them and am sorry for them. But is the true picture being presented to the public? Definitely not.
I want to make this clear: I am proud to be a citizen in a nation in which a prime minister can be investigated like any citizen. The prime minister is not above the law, but he is in no way below it.
To my sorrow, proper proceedings no longer take place [in this country], he said.
Perhaps today in my personal decision I have opened the door to a better reality, the premier added.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is currently in Washington, had been expected to hold a press conference later Wednesday reportedly about the state of negotiations with the Palestinians but canceled the statement, apparently due to Olmerts announcement.