Kadima MK Yitzhaki says he will resign

Labor MKs call to topple gov't; Ramon: Barak must stay for nation's sake; Kadima wants UTJ in coalition.

avigdor yitzhaki 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
avigdor yitzhaki 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
MK Avigdor Yitzhaki of Kadima, formerly the coalition leader and a long-time critic of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, announced Thursday that within three weeks he will retire from the Knesset and from political life. Yitzhaki has already threatened to leave Kadima unless Olmert resigned in the wake of the publication of the Final Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War. Shlomo Mula will take his place in the Knesset if he follows through with his threat. Israel Radio reported that Kadima has contacted United Torah Judaism (UTJ) in an effort to persuade the orthodox party to join the government. UTJ head Ya'acov Litzman, however, said his party had no intention of joining Olmert's government. Meanwhile, Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich blasted Olmert and called for his immediate resignation. "[Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert is a capable and talented man, but his staying in office is illegitimate," Yacimovich told Israel Radio Thursday morning. Yacimovich was not alone in her opinion. MKs Eitan Cabel and Ophir Paz-Pines, also of Labor, called for the faction to convene in the wake of the final report and were steadfast in their demand that Labor leave the coalition and topple Olmert's government. Former chief of Military Intelligence Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash said Olmert should set an example of "normative behavior" in such instances and resign "like Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin did in their time." Meanwhile, close Olmert ally in Kadima and Vice Premier Haim Ramon said that the report "completely vindicates the prime minister by stating that the decision to embark on a wide-scale land incursion was necessary and reasonable." Ramon, who joined Kadima after being a Labor mainstay for many years, also called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak to "show national responsibility and stay in the government." He said that elections at the present time would be "irresponsible in the extreme," adding that Barak should put the national consideration before "ensuring the primaries." Ramon also said that Olmert had "been a victim of a blood libel in recent days, and one of those accountable is opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu." Ramon added that "all those who spilled Olmert's blood should now apologize to him. Meanwhile, Barak's associates hinted he would not leave the government, citing the importance of ongoing negotiations with the Palestinians and of implementing the findings of the report, Army Radio reported. Barak announced after he stepped in as defense minister several months ago that Labor would leave the government unless Olmert resigned after the final report was published, but after briefly perusing it on Wednesday, he realized that the report was not an all-out condemnation of Olmert as prime minister. On Wednesday, however, Barak also avoided stating outright that he would not leave the government.