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Vice Premier Shimon Peres resigned from the 16th Knesset on Sunday afternoon, apparently in response to Attorney General Menahem Mazuz' decision that would prevent Peres, Haim Ramon, and Dalia Itzik from being appointed to ministerial posts under Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Mazuz based his decision on a law that says that any MK who leaves his or her party is barred from assuming a ministerial post in the same government.
Labor party secretary Eitan Cabel said in a press conference Sunday that, legal questions notwithstanding, the main problem with Peres, Ramon, and Itzik leaving Labor for Kadima was a moral one, and that "the public would have to judge them."
The resignations of Education Minister Limor Livnat, Health Minister Dan Naveh and Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, which were submitted on Thursday, take effect on Sunday afternoon. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom submitted his resignation on Friday and it will take effect on Monday.
Following the departure from the cabinet of the four Likud ministers, Olmert will be holding a record 15 portfolios and will have a cabinet of only six ministers, one of whom is Minister-without-Portfolio Tzahi Hanegbi, who has been barred by the Attorney-General's Office from holding a portfolio while he is being investigated for making illegal political appointments.
Mazuz is set to meet with Olmert at the beginning of the week to warn him that he must appoint new ministers as soon as possible. Olmert met with his and Sharon's advisers on Sunday morning to decide whom he will appoint.
The one certain appointment was that of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni as foreign minister, a position she is also expected to be given in the next government if Kadima wins the March 28 election. Livni will retain the Justice portfolio.
Olmert will continue to hold the Finance and Industry and Trade portfolios. Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit and Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson are expected to each be given a second portfolio.
Former Likud MKs Ze'ev Boim, Roni Bar-On and Ya'acov Edri are expected to receive appointments as Kadima ministers.
Bar-On is expected to be named construction and housing minister, Boim is likely to receive the National Infrastructure portfolio and Edri will be health minister. Itzik will likely return to the Communications Ministry and Peres to the Ministry of Negev and Galilee Development. It was unclear what portfolio Ramon would receive.
The Kadima faction will meet on Monday to officially elect Olmert as the party's interim chairman and to change the party charter to distribute powers that were given exclusively to Sharon. The charter will also be changed to expand the party's governing council.
Olmert is expected to meet this week with prospective candidates for the Kadima list who had scheduled meetings with Sharon before his stroke. Kadima officials confirmed that contacts had been held with Shinui MK Etti Livni, but they said that other Shinui MKs who had asked for a place on the Kadima list were being turned away because "Kadima will get their mandates without having to take their people."