yossi beilin 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Knesset began what is predicted to be a scorching summer session with three no-confidence motions on Monday.
The motions failed by margins of 60-62 against and 26-28 in favor, but a number of coalition MKs from the Kadima and Labor parties refused to vote with the government.
"The summer session may be short, but it will be a sizzling one for the government," said MK Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima), one of the rebels. Less than a week ago, he stepped down as coalition chairman.
Hours before the no-confidence votes, the Labor faction decided by a 10-8 margin to allow its MKs to abstain.
The move was seen as an indication of Labor's hesitancy to support the Olmert government.
"The faction looks bad, because we are saying that we are in the government but we are acting like we are not," said Labor faction chairman Yoram Marciano.
Marciano and all of the Labor ministers voted with the government, while several MKs, including Michael Melchior, Orit Noked, Shelly Yacimovich, Ami Ayalon, Avishay Braverman and Eitan Cabel abstained.
Afterward, a senior Kadima minister said the vote was worrying, because "if the time came where the coalition really needs all of its votes, it might not have them... Olmert will need to work on this."
While a simple majority - half the MKs present - is needed to pass most measures, there are special cases, mostly involving budgetary allocations and constructive no-confidence motions, that require the support of at least 61 MKs.
The no-confidence motions, which were presented by Likud, Meretz, United Torah Judaism and the National Union-National Religious Party, all cited the Winograd Committee's interim report on the Second Lebanon War as their reason for demanding that the Olmert government step down.
Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu told Olmert, "You've failed, take responsibility, go to the people."
"The entire nation is saying something simple: You've failed. Take responsibility. Go home," Netanyahu said.
Meretz leader MK Yossi Beilin told the Knesset that a Kadima minister had recently told him that Olmert posed a "national threat to Israel."
"As he [Olmert] is likely to make a hasty political move, he is likely to lead Israel to an unnecessary war," Beilin quoted the Kadima minister as telling him.
Interior Minister Roni Bar-On of Kadima spoke on behalf of the government, arguing that if an election were held now, the recommendations of the Winograd Report would not be implemented.