Labor to vote on remaining in coalition
Peretz: "Expanded coalition a matter of principle."
By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL, GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 23, 2006 23:09
3 minute read.
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(photo credit: Knesset [file])
"Expanding the coalition is a matter of principle," Defense Minister Amir Peretz, speaking at Kibbutz Ramat Efal, told kibbutz movement leaders on Tuesday. "I have an obligation, whether I like it or not, to listen."
"No one should guess what my recommendation to the Labor central committee will be," Peretz continued.
"Lieberman's presence is very grave for us," he said.
Olmert, Lieberman sign coalition deal
Peretz said that he would meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert later Tuesday evening to discuss his [Peretz's] opinion of where the coalition is going.
"Our party has a wide feeling and pluralism, and the views here cannot be ignored," Peretz said.
"If we sat with Arafat, we can sit with Yvette Lieberman," National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) said Tuesday.
The party's central committee is scheduled to convene on Wednesday to decide whether to quit Olmert's coalition in protest over the addition of Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party.
Ben-Eliezer told Army Radio that he believed that the Labor Party's central committee would ultimately decide to remain in the coalition. "I believe that the central committee is wise enough to understand that if we're out [of the coalition], it's the beginning of the end," Ben-Eliezer said.
Party officials decided to postpone the meeting until after the Id al-Fitr holiday, to allow Arabs, the party's largest sector, to come and likely vote against Labor remaining in the coalition.
Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel protested Olmert's decision to hold the cabinet and Knesset votes on expanding the coalition before Labor has decided its future. He said Olmert was unfairly presenting Labor with a done deal.
"It is very problematic," a source close to Cabel said. "He is spitting in our faces. This is not the behavior of a man who wants us to remain in the coalition."
Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ophir Paz-Pines cut short a trip to China and will return in time to vote against the coalition expansion in the cabinet. Upon learning that Lieberman would be appointed minister for strategic affairs, Paz-Pines said the position was "a joke" because "Lieberman himself is a strategic threat."
"I'll do everything I can to prevent the inclusion of [Israel Beiteinu] in the government," he said.
MK Shelly Yacimovich also blasted Lieberman's joining the government, calling it "political suicide."
"The addition of Israel Beiteinu to the government would eliminate any chance of a social revolution, or a socially responsible government," she said. "If I were a government minister, I would resign rather then sit in a cabinet with Lieberman."
But ministers Isaac Herzog and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer were more optimistic about Lieberman's addition.
"He has given every indication that he wants to work with the Labor Party and that he will not try to change the goals this government has set out to accomplish," said Herzog.
Ben-Eliezer sent a letter to Labor central committee members, warning them that "the public will not forgive any party that would be responsible for dragging the nation to another expensive election, wasting money that should be spent on other, more important things." He said there was no reason to oppose Israel Beiteinu's addition, because it adopted the coalition guidelines.
A Labor central committee member who opposes Israel Beiteinu's addition said he believed the central committee would vote to have Labor quit the government.
"We are more idealistic than the MKs in the Knesset, who care about nothing more than their own influence and power," the central committee member said. "There are already phone calls and e-mails being circulated for people to vote to take Labor out of the government."
During the Israel Beiteinu faction meeting on Monday, Lieberman said he hoped that his party's addition to the government would not "make waves."
"I have sat with Labor in a coalition before, and I believe I can do it again," he said. "There is no reason to believe that we can't work together to [achieve] the same goals."