Growing calls for Olmert to resign

But support for early elections has yet to coalesce within the Knesset.

olmert probe speech 224. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
olmert probe speech 224.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Although support for early elections has yet to coalesce within the Knesset, opposition MKs kept the pressure on embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, calling repeatedly throughout the weekend for Olmert's resignation. "The Olmert-Barak government has demonstrated helplessness in the face of escalations of artillery fire from Gaza toward the western Negev communities. A government that has sunk up to its neck in criminal investigations and has failed to deliver security to its citizens has no right to exist," said Likud faction Chairman MK Gideon Sa'ar Saturday evening. But despite Likud's repeated calls for early elections - which, according to recent polls, are likely to benefit Likud head MK Binyamin Netanyahu, other parties - both in the opposition and the coalition - who were eager to see Olmert go seemed reluctant to back early elections. Meretz called on Olmert to suspend himself and said that it would act in the summer Knesset session for the formation of a replacement coalition while coalition members Shas and the GIL Pensioners Party said they too would not back early elections. Perhaps the greatest chink in the coalition's armor came from main Kadima partner Labor on Friday when Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel said Labor needed to reconsider its position in the coalition in light of the revelations regarding Olmert released late Thursday night. "I do not see how Olmert can continue to lead the government in the current situation," Cabel told Israel Radio Friday. Cabel added that Kadima was "obligated to do something" to stabilize the political establishment. Cabel's position was a pale echo of opinions voiced by party MK Shelly Yacimovich, who announced that "the coalition partnership with Olmert has ended, as staying in a coalition headed by Olmert issues a stamp of approval for his corrupt actions. If Olmert has even a grain of Zionism and responsibility, he must resign immediately, in view of the harsh allegations." Labor's Young Guard joined Yacimovich in demanding that Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak promptly resign from the coalition. Representatives of the group warned that "if Labor does not withdraw from the coalition immediately, they will lose the public's trust in future elections." Nevertheless, the dominant faction in the party, those associated with Barak, hinted throughout the weekend that it would take a lot more than the suspicions aired Thursday to pull Labor out of the coalition - a situation that would, however, be likely should an indictment be delivered against the prime minister.