Ostensibly, this government is based on one of the widest coalitions in history. And at this point, at least, none of the partners has any real interest in leaving. But things still aren't working out.
Tuesday should have been a day for a rallying of the coalition, facing off State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's unprecedented alliance with the opposition against the prime minister. Instead it seemed that the real opposition was within.
In the Knesset State Comptroller Committee, coalition MKs egged Lindenstrauss on. They were no good either in the House Committee where representatives of Labor, Shas and the Pensioners parties all forgot on which side of the house they sit and supported UTJ's Yaakov Litzman in his campaign to remain chairman of the Finance Committee, despite his party remaining in opposition. And if that wasn't enough, there was the bizarre outburst by Labor Chairman Amir Peretz against Ehud Olmert in the cabinet meeting. Not behavior you would expect from the leader of the most important coalition partner.
Despite the High Court ruling forbidding Lindenstrauss from detailing the personal accusations in his report on the defense of the home front during the summer's war, the trauma of Lebanon still hangs heavily over the Olmert administration. It is hard to believe that any of this would be going on if the coalition MKs didn't feel that if not Lindenstrauss, then the Winograd Commission is seriously threatening the leadership. Peretz knows that even if he manages to survive Winograd, the Labor primaries will probably finish his career for him. And then with a new Labor chairman, who knows what will happen to the coalition.
The entire political system is on standby. It's hard to imagine that any of the current crises will get out of hand enough to bring the government down. Even Peretz was back joking at the cabinet table a few minutes after his tantrum. No one is going to jump the gun, but neither are they going to exert themselves for the coalition's sake. Everyone is simply waiting to see how the next two and a half months are going to play out: Who is left standing after the Winograd Commission delivers it preliminary report, who wins the Barak-Ayalon showdown and will Peretz try and bring the house down with him on his way out.
All the prospective Kadima rebels are planning a possible power play. There are at least five ministers who believe they should be leading the party but they won't make a move at this stage. Why put your head above the parapet if Winograd might be doing all the work for you?
Meanwhile, Litzman will probably stay in his prestigious post. As the Gerer Rebbe's personal envoy in the Knesset, he will be around for a few more years in politics, a guarantee not many of his colleagues have, and most MKs prefer not to make an enemy of him if they can help it. Right now it doesn't seem that not keeping to the coalition's line can really harm a backbencher. Israel Beiteinu might have been promised the chairmanship of the committee in their coalition agreement but it doesn't seem that their man, Stas Meseznicov, will sit in the coveted chair until the government's future is a bit clearer.
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