When the ministers are away, opposition plays

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
January 18, 2010 07:59
2 minute read.

As almost a third of the government's ministers packed their bags on Sunday for a binational cabinet meeting in Berlin, opposition leader Tzipi Livni seemed to be on a collision course with the coalition's remaining representatives.

Her Kadima party continued to threaten to present its no-confidence motion against the government as scheduled, despite a long-standing Knesset tradition that the votes are not be held when the prime minister is not in the country to defend himself.

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The government's top ministers - including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor) and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu) - will all attend the Berlin meeting, together with at least five other cabinet members including Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor).

Due to the absence of many key Likud leaders, the party's faction announced on Sunday that it would not be holding its weekly meeting, usually held on Monday afternoon. Likud officials expected that Kadima would hold with tradition and cancel the no-confidence vote, expressing incredulity on Sunday evening that the votes were scheduled to be held as usual.

Kadima officials responded that the break with tradition was a symbolic move, in protest of the coalition's "forceful" behavior in enforcing parliamentary discipline among its lawmakers and against opposition parties.

Kadima's no-confidence measure attacked the government's diplomatic policy, in the shadow of last week's friction with Ankara.

But some Kadima MKs, associated with the anti-Tzipi Livni faction of the party, hinted in advance of the vote that if Kadima's Knesset leadership broke with tradition and held the no-confidence vote as planned, they would be absent from the Knesset floor during the voting. And those same officials said that they had been told by Likud MKs that they too would boycott the plenum debate in protest.

The last time that the prime minister and a large number of cabinet ministers were absent on a Monday, Kadima did pull its no-confidence motions a day before the votes.

Even with the absence of a third of the cabinet ministers, the opposition still would not be able to bring down the government - 61 votes, more than the opposition holds even if all of its members are present, are required to bring down the government.


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