Knesset opens battle to topple Olmert

No fewer than four no-confidence motions will be filed against PM on Monday.

netanyahu good pic 298.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
netanyahu good pic 298.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
Thursday's Knesset session will mark the opening battle in the war to topple the Olmert government, opposition leaders promised on Wednesday. The Knesset, which will meet for an emergency session Thursday over the findings of the Winograd Committee, has not convened since it began its spring recess nearly five weeks ago. While that recess was set to end this upcoming Monday, opposition MKs decided they could wait no longer and submitted a petition with 27 MKs' signatures calling for an emergency session. A Knesset spokesman said that when the Knesset goes back into session on Monday, no less than four no-confidence motions will be filed against Olmert.
Winograd Fallout: In-Depth
The success of those motions was difficult to assess on Wednesday night, as the situation surrounding the prime minister and his coalition was extremely fluid. According to the deal worked out between the opposition parties and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, each party will be given five minutes to discuss the Winograd Report's findings. The report, which harshly criticized the government's handling of the Second Lebanon War, has already led to the resignation of Labor Minister Eitan Cabel and Coalition Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima). Opposition MKs promised Wednesday that more resignations were soon to come. "While Olmert has been busy trying to hold together the pieces of his crumbling house, we have been building new houses," said one high-ranking Likud MK. "[Binyamin Netanyahu] has seen his name at the top of the opinion polls and we know the public wants him to lead. We are still a democratic country where the people elect their leaders." An aide to Netanyahu said that the Likud chairman planned to attack Olmert for not resigning gracefully. "The Likud Party believes that the results of the Winograd Committee's report are so damning that they must be fixed by someone outside of the current political leadership," said the aide. Other opposition parties, including NU-NRP, Meretz, and the Arab parties are also expected to call for Olmert's resignation. Spokesmen for Israel Beiteinu, Shas, and the Gil Pensioners Party said that they would continue supporting Olmert as prime minister. "During meetings that Olmert held with all the coalition parties he asked for our support and will receive it," said a party spokeswoman. "We are taking the time to be patient and to read the report and not to just react. The coalition partners are standing behind Olmert." While Labor might be Olmert's top coalition partner, it was the growing anti-Olmert faction in that party that could topple the government, said opposition MKs. While the Labor Party refused to comment on what they would say in the plenum Thursday, their choice of speaker, MK Danny Yatom, has repeatedly stated in the past that Olmert should resign. "The Labor Party could have chosen among many MKs to speak for them in the plenum, but they chose someone who has been a vocal critic of Olmert," said a Labor Party minister. "That itself speaks volumes for the direction of the party." Since it appeared that Olmert had no intention of resigning on his own, or calling for early elections, opposition MKs said that they were hanging their hopes on the Labor Party to force early elections. "If Olmert loses the Labor Party the ship will sink, it will not survive that blow," said the Labor minister. "It does not look good for the prime minister; the mood in the party is increasingly turning towards us leaving the coalition." While only Cabel has tendered his resignation, at least one other Labor minister was rumored to be considering resigning his post. The Labor Party is scheduled to have primaries in less than 28 days, during which it appears likely that another candidate will be elected to replace Defense Minister Amir Peretz as party chairman. MK Ami Ayalon and former prime minister Ehud Barak are currently leading the polls for the primaries, and aides to both said that they were considering taking Labor out of the coalition.