Former prime minister Ehud Olmert has not ruled out returning to politics if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decides to advance the next general election to February, sources close to Olmert said Wednesday.
Olmert was cleared of most of the charges against him in three of four corruption cases, and his conviction for breach of trust is not expected to be a legal obstacle to running.
He is still standing trial on bribery charges in the Holyland scandal, but his lawyers believe the prosecution’s case against him is weak.
If Olmert decides to run for office, he would try to form a bloc of parties that would run together, including Kadima, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and a new party that former ministers Tzipi Livni and Haim Ramon were in the process of forming.
“There is a lot of pressure on him to run,” a source close to the former prime minister said.
“He has not decided or taken any steps. But he is very upset at the way Netanyahu has handled relations with the United States and the Iranian and Palestinian issues, and he is concerned about what could happen with four more years of Netanyahu in power.”
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday that he had good relations with Olmert but did not want to mire him in politics until he finished his legal obligations.
Livni’s allies rebuffed public overtures from Mofaz on Wednesday, saying that she would not rejoin Kadima if he remained at its head.
Mofaz called for Kadima to build a united front and serve as an alternative to Netanyahu’s Likud in the expected election in the coming months.
“The people of Israel want to replace Netanyahu, but at the moment the polls don’t reflect this,” Mofaz said in an interview with Army Radio.
He called for “those outside of Kadima, and certainly the woman who stood at the head of Kadima, to come and help us replace this bad government.”
Livni, however, is looking in other directions to make her political comeback.
A Kadima MK close to the party’s former leader said “there is no possible scenario” in which Livni would return to be No. 2 or 3 on the list, and only a slight chance that she would come back if she could lead Kadima again.
“Mofaz made every mistake, insulted Livni, and what does he want now? For her to come and save Kadima?” the MK asked. “Activists call [pro-Livni MKs] and say they were wrong, but that doesn’t help.”
According to the MK, there is no Kadima without Livni, and he said the next election would come down to “Tzipi or Bibi.” He added that if Livni returned to politics, she would lead the Left-Center of the political map and replace Netanyahu.
“If Mofaz wants, he can be in the fifth spot or lower on Livni’s list,” he quipped.
On Tuesday, Channel 10 reported that Livni met with former Interior Minister and senior Shinui member Avraham Poraz to discuss the possibility of using his Hetz (Arrow) party in the next election.
Poraz founded Hetz in 2006, when he and 10 other MKs broke off from Shinui.
If Livni revives Hetz, she will save herself the bureaucratic headache of registering a new party. In addition, new parties may spend only NIS 13 million on an election campaign, but Livni will be able to increase the budget if she takes over Hetz.