The cabinet on Sunday narrowly approved Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman's proposal to change the system of government, paving the way for Lieberman to join Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government.
The proposal to strengthen the power of the prime minister by going from a parliamentary to presidential system of government passed by a 12-11 vote, with the Kadimaa ministers voting for the proposal, the Labor and Shas ministers voting against and Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan (Gil) making the difference by voting for. The other Gil minister, Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri, abstained.
Despite voting for the proposal, Olmert said he was not in favor of the presidential system and was opposed to a clause in the bill to raise the electoral threshold to 10 percent.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni backed the proposal on the condition that Kadima's own bill for governmental reform be brought to the Knesset for a preliminary discussion alongside the Lieberman bill.
After the cabinet meeting, the cabinet's ministerial law committee met and approved Kadima's proposal, meaning that both proposals will be brought to the Knesset, no earlier than next week, for a preliminary reading.
The Kadima proposal calls for the voters themselves to decide the candidates on the party's Knesset list and not leave that up to party central committees. The proposal also increases the electoral threshold from the current 2.5% to 4%.
Other proposals, including one from Labor and another from Likud, may also be brought to the Knesset.
The Knesset will discuss the various proposals and vote on each one. Afterwards, they will be brought to the Knesset Law Committee, which will winnow them into one.
The process could take months, but in the meantime - if all goes as Israel Beiteinu and Kadima have planned - Lieberman will be well ensconced inside the government, giving it a new lease on life.
Labor Minister Eitan Cabel, who is adamantly opposed to the bill, said the government did not sufficiently study the government reform issue, adding that Lieberman's proposal was a violation of the coalition agreements.
Once the government approves a bill, ministers are obligated to back it in the Knesset. However, Cabel asked that Labor ministers be given the freedom to vote their consciences on this bill. Olmert has made no decision on the matter.
Olmert said there would be a wider discussion both in the Knesset and in the cabinet before the government reform bill is voted on. He said the matter must be placed in its proper proportion, intimating that Labor's opposed it because it wanted to keep Lieberman out of the government.
"The opposition to Lieberman's proposal is because of the circumstances surrounding the proposal," Olmert said.