Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he has decided not to contend in the Kadima primary election and would resign as soon as the new party leader was chosen, due to the criminal investigations that have embroiled him in recent months.
“I have decided I won’t run in the Kadima movement primaries, nor do I intend to intervene in the elections,” Olmert said in an official statement to the public from his official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening.
“When a new [Kadima party] chairman is chosen, I will resign as prime minister to permit them to put together a new government swiftly and effectively,” he added.
The prime minister has been under official investigation in recent months over allegations of corruption in his former capacities as Jerusalem mayor and trade minister.
Political sources had expected Olmert to announce that he would not run in upcoming leadership contest in his Kadima party, scheduled for September 17. This decision in effect signals an end to Olmert’s political career.
Olmert began the address by saying that despite having been beset by investigations during his tenure, he has improved the situation in Israel and continues to believe that peace is the most important track for the country.
The prime minister went on to say that as long as he was in power, he would work toward this goal of peace.
“I am proud to be the prime minister of a country that investigates its prime ministers,” he said. “The prime minister is not above the law, but he is in no way below it.”
The two most prominent investigations involve suspicions that Olmert took bribes from American businessman Morris Talansky, and charges he submitted duplicate claims for travel expenses which he allegedly used to fund family trips abroad. He has denied wrongdoing, but said he would resign if indicted.
Olmert’s announcement comes a day after Kadima said it had scheduled its leadership vote, an election that could lead to Olmert’s ouster.
The prime minister’s advisers in recent days have split into two groups: those who expect him to continue in his position and resign only if indicted, and those who have been urging him not to run in the primary elections and conclude his term with an air of respect.