By AP/Josef Federman
The announcement means Israel could find itself racing to form a new government in as little as a seven days. And it raises new questions about Washington's stated goal of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement by year's end.
Olmert, who is battling a corruption investigation, announced in July that he would resign after his Kadima Party chooses a new leader in Wednesday's primary. But some felt he was vague about the timing of his exit, raising speculation he would try to keep power.
Addressing a Kadima Party meeting Thursday, Olmert said he never intended to delay his resignation. "As I have said before, immediately after the selection of a new chairman of Kadima, I plan to resign and recommend to the president to pick the new head of the party to form a government," he said.
However, under Israel's complicated political system, Olmert could find himself in office well into next year, even if that is not his intention.
He would stay on as a caretaker while the new Kadima leader tried to form a ruling alliance. If that failed, Israel would have to hold elections a year and a half early. Coalition negotiations after a ballot could last until spring, and Olmert would remain in office until then.
Police have been investigating for months a string of corruption cases involving Olmert. In one, he is suspected of improperly accepting cash and fancy gifts from a U.S. supporter. In another, he is suspected of submitting multiple bills for trips abroad, pocketing the difference or financing trips for relatives.
Though Kadima holds its primary Wednesday, it could be forced to hold a second round the following week if none of the four contenders gets 40 percent of the vote.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel's lead negotiator in peace talks, and Cabinet minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and military chief, are the front-runners.
Opinion polls, meanwhile, indicate a tight race in any national ballot between Livni and hard-line former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose election could set back the U.S.-sponsored Mideast peace drive.
If elected, Livni, who hopes to become Israel's first female prime minister in four decades, would likely push ahead with the peace talks she has been leading. Mofaz would be expected to take a tougher line, particularly on the sensitive issue of Jerusalem. He opposes sharing control of the city, whose eastern sector is sought by the Palestinians as a future capital.
Read also: Israel After Olmert
At an appointed time, a wolf shall resurface.
In the seasons after the last of the fruits of the trees shall have touched the ground, the mighty eagle shall be healed of its injury.
The wolf is a skilled archer. The eagle is a veteran flier.
When the wolf and the eagle hunt, they both will set their eyes towards the fields in the direction of the rising of the sun.