(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Supreme Court's decision to require a lengthy legal procedure ahead of the release of the final Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War will hasten a split in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party, Olmert's opponents in the party said Tuesday.
The report, which was once expected to be released as early as October, now might not be released until 2008, after all the people who could potentially be harmed by it are allowed to defend themselves before the Winograd Committee.
Olmert's opponents said any minister or MK who had been waiting for Winograd's release before deciding whether to join a rebellion in the party could no longer use the report as an excuse to vacillate.
They said if a split were to happen it would have to take place as soon as possible, and that it could not wait for 2008.
"Now people will finally understand that Winograd cannot be an excuse to sit and do nothing," an Olmert opponent in Kadima said.
Another Olmert opponent in the party disagreed, saying the court's decision would only help extend his tenure as prime minister and weaken the possibility of a split.
Olmert's opponents rejected reports that they intended to use the prime minister's negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as a trigger to split the party. They said left-leaning Kadima MKs would not agree to such a maneuver.
"I am not sure we need a trigger at all, but if we do, it's not diplomatic, because that would be overly obvious," an Olmert opponent said.
One Olmert opponent said a split could not happen unless a minister was among the minimum 10 MKs needed for a third of the 29-man faction to break off and form their own party.
A political official who spoke recently to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said she gave the impression that she was looking for an excuse to quit the government and join a rebellion. The official said Livni had set parameters for remaining in the cabinet. Her office said Livni had said no such things.
Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz sent Olmert a letter late Monday night calling upon him to convene the Kadima faction for the first time in two months and to create focus groups to set the party's red lines for negotiations with the Palestinians. He said he was in favor of creating a Palestinian state with temporary borders via interim agreements with the PA, but criticized Olmert, saying it was wrong to discuss Jerusalem's future before a final-status agreement.
Kadima's council will convene to discuss such issues on September 20.
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit praised Olmert's quiet diplomatic channels with Abbas in a pre-Rosh Hashana toast with hundreds of Kadima activists at the party's Tel Aviv headquarters. He said it was important for Olmert to check whether an agreement could be reached with Abbas, but that if such an agreement is reached, Olmert must bring it to the faction for approval.
Three MKs who have been among Olmert's harshest critics in the Kadima faction sat on stage at Sheetrit's event. MKs Avigdor Yitzhaki, Shai Hermesh and Ze'ev Elkin all defended the right to dissent in the party and said the variety of voices was a positive sign for Kadima's future.
"It's good that we disagree," Hermesh said. "On September 20 we will agree on one policy under one leadership. I think it's an expression of a mature party that we hear MKs' differing opinions. A party where people don't give their opinion is a dead party."â€¢