schneller otniel 298 gov.
(photo credit: www.knesset.gov.il)
The convergence plan that served as a cornerstone of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's rise to office may lead to his downfall, members of the coalition said Wednesday.
"If you asked me now what could break up the coalition, I would say convergence," said a senior Labor minister. "We can't support a plan which calls for unilateral moves."
The plan, which calls for a withdrawal from large swaths of the West Bank, allows for a unilateral withdrawal if a "partner" is unavailable for negotiations, said MK Otniel Schneller, the Kadima MK who helped draft the plan.
No partner, he acknowledged, appears to be on the horizon at the moment.
"How, after everything we have seen in the past month, could anyone suggest that unilateral steps lead to peaceful solutions?" asked MK Colette Avital (Labor). "In Gaza and Lebanon we've seen what happens with unilateral steps... they create a vacuum that simply leads to more violence." Like many in Labor, Kadima's main coalition partner, Avital said that in light of the past month, she could not encourage the convergence plan.
"Labor needs to make a decision, as a party, how we go forward from here, and what types of plans we support," said a Labor MK. "Many of those decisions will depend on how our chairman fares this next month."
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, the Labor chairman, has been criticized for his handling of the military during the war, and on Wednesday agreed to an inquiry committee to examine this.
The convergence plan has been the basis of Olmert's choice in coalition partners, said a source close to the prime minister.
Labor and Gil both pledged support for convergence before they were formally added to the coalition, which several other parties - including National Union-National Religious Party (NU-NRP) and Israel Beiteinu - were kept out of after they fought against the plan. Eventually, said sources close to Olmert, the prime minister chose his coalition partners based on the set of partners it would take to pass the plan.
On Wednesday, however, even Olmert's most steadfast advocates of convergence, including Schneller, appeared to waver over the plan.
"At this time, it's simply not relevant," said Schneller, although less than two weeks ago, Olmert voiced his ongoing support for the plan in an interview with the foreign press.
Some senior Kadima members, including Construction and Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit and MK David Tal, have already voiced outright opposition to the plan.
The prime minister's comments to the foreign press in favor of convergence were "a mistake," said Sheetrit. Environment Minister Gideon Ezra also said there were "more important" things to discuss now than the convergence plan.
On Wednesday, MK Uri Ariel (NU-NRP) filed a bill to disperse the 17th Knesset and call for early elections.
"Given the general public atmosphere desiring a change of government, it seems that the cabinet no longer has a coalition majority," said MK Nissan Slomiansky (NU-NRP).
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