Ehud Olmert (photo, from rue89.com), Israeli prime minister will stand down two months from now, he announced, saying that his family is being hurt by a corruption case involving him.
He told reporters that he is vowing to prove his innocence, and that he would leave after a new leader is chosen by his Kadima party, at its internal election on 17 September.
In the ruling coalition, several Kadima ministers in the ruling coalition are bidding to replace Ehud Olmert, who is under pressure to resign over a police inquiry into money he received from a businessman.
Mr Olmert has already denied any wrongdoing about allegations that he received election donations in cash in 2006, from Morris Talansky, a US citizen, which may have subsequently been used to buy luxury items.
The BBC’s Wyre Davies reports from Jerusalem that the prime minister had faced mounting pressure from within his own party to resign. It had become clear that he would have been humiliated had he stood in the September ballot.
Chances for a peace deal with the Palestinians by the end of the year have severely impaired because of Mr Olmert’s weak political position, say many analysts.
The announcement is “an internal Israeli matter”, said a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president.
“The concern of the Palestinian authority is to have an Israeli prime minister who is committed to peacemaking”, said Nabil Abu Rdainah.
Negoatiations would continue, said Sean McCormack, US State department spokesman, adding that his country was looking forward to working with “all responsible Israeli leaders in the government”.
During his time in office, the scandal is one of six corruption investigations Mr Olmert has faced. Even though Israeli prime minister said he felt able to continue carrying out his duties despite the corruption investigation, he asked : “What is more important, my personal justice or the public interest?”
“People hurting my family bothers me a lot”, he said, noting that the investigation was turning people against him.
He added that “the prime minister is not above the law but he is in no way below it”, which seemed to direct veiled criticisms against the justice system.
“I am proud to be the prime minister of a country that investigates its prime ministers”, he remarked.
To replace Ehud Olmert in the party contest, Tzipi Livni (photo) is tipped. She is Israel’s foreign minister, and one of the country’s most popular politicians. She is a former protege of Ariel Sharon, and helped broker Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Although she is viewed as one of the few centrists in the government not tainted by corruption, and champions a vision of Israel co-existing with a Palestinian state, critics argue that she lacks the military and political experience to lead the country.
Shaul Mofaz, Avi Dichter and Meir Sheetrit are also seen as contenders for the party leadership.