Olmert predicts re-election on economy, security

Mar 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2007, 05:30am hrs
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, pounded by record low polls and corruption probes that threaten to bring down his government, said the countrys best economy ever and security gains from the Lebanon war will ensure his re- election.

All of this will create a certain balance that will allow the public to decide that this government is not as bad as they think, Olmert said in an interview with editors from Bloomberg News in his residence in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Further into 2007, things will change. Since Olmerts breakaway Kadima Party was elected a year ago, he has been perceived as ineffectual during the rise of the Palestinian Hamas terrorist movement, as a failure leading the war against Hezbollah on Israels northern border and as tainted by criminal investigations into four ministers including himself. Olmert, 61, was thrust into power because his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, suffered a stroke from which he hasnt recovered. The prime minister now insists that his policies have set the stage for a peace agreement with the aid of moderate Arab countries and lasting growth. For all of the turmoil of fighting seven wars with authoritarian Arab neighbors, Israel is approaching its 60th anniversary as a parliamentary democracy. The Jewish state now has a gross domestic product 30% larger than Egypts with a 10th of the population. The Israeli economy has been transformed from orange-producing farm collectives to a software-to-services juggernaut led by pharmaceuticals and telecommunications equipment.

Leaning back at his desk in front of a mural painted by his wife Aliza, Olmert described himself as a patient man and repeatedly expressed his confidence that the Israeli public will in the end recognize the wisdom of his decisions.

Eventually you will not be able to separate the government from the performance, from the success, Olmert said. We just have to be strong, prevail, and not succumb to pressures of politics.