05/30/2008, 00.00
ISRAEL
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Israel getting ready for early elections

Olmert is expected to quit. Surveys favour Likud and Netanyahu, who might bring talks with Syria to a dead halt because he is against giving back the Golan Heights.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Elections in Israel are just around the corner as corruption charges against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appear inevitable and parties start positioning themselves in anticipation of such an eventuality.

So far former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s right seems to be main beneficiary of the situation according to recent surveys. With his allies, he would get a majority in the Knesset.

Peace talks with Syria, or “progress” as they are called today, would end since Mr Netanyahu has already indicated that he is against returning the Golan Heights, the crux of the matter.

Within Olmert’s party Kadima the idea of having Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as prime minister is gaining ground.

The decision could be made in primaries, a first for the Jewish state, and something that might appeal to Olmert, despite his dislike for the foreign minister. Likewise she has great appeal and according to a survey could actually improve her party’s score if she was at the helm.

According to a survey for mass circulation Yedioth Ahronoth, 39 per cent of Kadima members would back her against 25 per cent for current Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. For Haaretz Kadima would get 23 seats out of 120 if she led the party. Labour under Barak would get 15 seats for a combined total of 38.

These would be fewer than Likud’s 29 and its ally, Yisrael Beiteinu’s Yisrael Beiteinu, which would get 11.

Olmert’s exit would start with his resignation, which many in the party want.

For a Kadima official cited by the Jerusalem Post, his removal could be done “without being brutal.”

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