BEIRUT

Middle East

Olmert will not run in Israeli election

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (C) greets an unidentified guest at a reception during the 2012 Saban Forum on U.S.-Israel Relations gala dinner at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, November 30, 2012. (REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert)

JERUSALEM: Former Israeli leader Ehud Olmert put an end to weeks of political suspense on Thursday with a decision not to run against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January's election.

The centrist Olmert had been mulling a political comeback since October, when Netanyahu called the election after his government failed to agree on the 2013 budget.

"He is not running," his aide, Yanki Galanti, told Reuters.

Olmert, 67, was forced to quit as prime minister in 2008 over corruption charges of which he was largely acquitted this year. He is internationally credited for pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

Right-wing Netanyahu, who polls predict will win the ballot, has come under international pressure in the past week after his government announced plans to expand Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank, territory the Palestinians want for a future state.

Israeli commentators were divided on whether an Olmert candidacy would have helped to unite an already splintered centre-left opposition, or would have further fractured the bloc.

Israelis go to the polls on January 22.

 

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