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The Knesset voted on Monday against a no-confidence motion brought by Meretz and the three Arab parties over continuing building in the settlements. The timing of the vote was a break with the Knesset tradition not to bring no-confidence motions while the prime minister is out of the country.
The motion was handily beaten with 49 coalition MKs voting against it, 11 opposition member in favor and 12 abstentions, mainly by Likud MKs. Another similar motion brought by Israel Beiteinu was postponed because of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's visit to Britain and France.
Meretz faction leader Zehava Gal-On refused on Monday morning to postpone the vote on her party's motion, saying that she wasn't prepared to work according to Olmert's schedule. In retaliation, coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki decided to cancel the coalition's agreement that Meretz would chair the Knesset committee on foreign workers.
Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin, who presented the motion, said the party had considered postponing the vote, but Yitzhaki's threats to reduce its rights in the various committees had convinced it to push forward. He said that construction in the settlements was at odds with the government's commitment to the road map, which includes an end to building in the settlements.
Minister-without-Portfolio Ya'acov Edri, who is in charge of liaising between the government and the Knesset, whose job it would normally be to give the government's answer to the motion, refused to answer it as a protest at the breaking of tradition.
The leaders of the Arab parties spoke in the plenum about the explosion on Friday on the Gaza beach that killed seven members of the same family, blaming the IDF.
Kadima sources attacked Meretz and said that the real reason it had refused to postpone the vote was that the Arab parties had insisted on it so they could use it to attack the IDF. They also had harsh words for the Likud MKs who, unlike other right-wing members of the opposition who had left the plenum during the vote, had abstained on "a motion that attacked IDF soldiers."