Thursday, July 31, 2008

Olmert Quits

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he's going to step down in September. He's been weakened by a series of corruption allegations, the latest of which surrounds payments allegedly made to him by an American businessman, who says Mr Olmert spent the cash on luxury items.

Although it was the alleged corruption that eventually did for Mr Olmert, he's been in political trouble ever since the disaster of Israel's war against Hizbollah in the summer of 2006. His failure to make a convincing wartime leader, and his failure to keep the country's troops safe from capture made the Israeli people believe he wasn't up to the job of protecting Israel's security. And that was always going to be the real reason behind the end of his premiership.

His likely replacement is the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. She's a bit of a pragmatist, having helped broker Israel's pullout from Gaza. But any hopes of moving the peace process forward will depend on her early days in office, when she'll be more able to drag the Israeli government and people a bit closer to a proper deal. However, like Mr Olmert she (unusually for Israeli leaders over the years) doesn't have a military record to show off, and if she's unable to reassure the Israeli people she can keep them safe, expect her career to end up going the same way as Mr Olmert's.

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