Kadima attacks coalition chairman

Coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki came under fire from Kadima MKs at Monday's faction meeting for his open criticism of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his handling of the coalition. Immigrant Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim, a close confidant of Olmert, slammed Yitzhaki for saying in a speech in Beersheba on Saturday that Israel was in the midst of its worst leadership crisis ever. "It's a scandal for you, as head of the coalition, to say that we don't have proper leadership," said Boim, a former coalition chairman himself. "It damages the prime minister and the party leadership. We saw the damage of interparty strife in the Likud and we don't want to repeat the same mistakes." Yitzhaki said his speech was misquoted in the media and that he did not intend to cause Olmert harm. Boim also criticized Yitzhaki for backing the Likud's Reuven Rivlin for president instead of Kadima's candidate, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, and for repeatedly speaking out against the so-called Peres bill that is designed to help Peres get elected president. Environment Minister Gideon Ezra accused Yitzhaki of disregarding decisions of the ministerial committee on legislation by allowing MKs to violate coalition discipline. "Every Sunday the committee makes a decision, and every Wednesday you tell people to feel free to vote their conscience," he said. Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson and Minister-without-Portfolio Ya'acov Edri both said they agreed and other ministers nodded. The newest addition to the cabinet, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, attended the faction meeting for the first time, sitting between Boim and Interior Minister Roni Bar-On.