Knesset votes to topple government next week

With Meretz pledging its support Tuesday, 74 MKs now behind Silvan Shalom's bill to dissolve Knesset.

silvan shalom 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
silvan shalom 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government survived four separate no-confidence motions on Monday, but factions now numbering 74 MKs have expressed support for dissolving the Knesset. This includes Meretz's five MKs after the faction made a decision Tuesday to support Likud MK Silvan Shalom's bill to disperse the Knesset currently supported by Likud, Labor, Shas, Israel Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism and the National Union-National Religious Party. Despite Meretz's previous preference for the formation of an alternative government and not an election, the group still agreed to support the bills slated to break up the government that will be voted on next week. Shalom said he expected the bill to pass by a large majority. He called upon Olmert to cooperate with the process of removing him and to leave office in a dignified manner. "The Olmert government has reached the end of its path," Shalom told the Likud faction. "There should be a short and respectful process leading to elections in November. Olmert should act courageously and end his government in a proper way and not a shameful one." Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu added that "elections are necessary for the good of the country" and that "the burning issues facing the country cannot be held hostage by the foreign interests of our current leaders." The opposition kept up its weekly pressure on the government, as no fewer than seven parties sponsored no-confidence motions. Although none of them passed, at least two of the votes reflected subjects likely to drive the government closer and closer to early elections. The NU-NRP and UTJ's joint motion attacked the government on its unwillingness to increase child benefits, a topic particularly sensitive for coalition partner Shas, which is pushing hard to prove to voters that it can restore the benefits cut in recent years. Likud's no-confidence motion repeated the party's consistent theme, that the government has reached the end of the road. Prior to the votes, MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) called upon Labor Chairman Ehud Barak to put his votes where his mouth was and support the no-confidence motions rather than "threatening empty threats of early elections." Beilin added that even as Labor is threatening to advance toward early elections, the party's ministers have remained in their places and are tacitly supporting the government - and Olmert - through their continued participation. Minister-without-portfolio Ruhama Avraham responded on behalf of the government that the "party with only 12 seats," referring to the Likud, "will have to wait a little longer." In the corridors of the Knesset, MKs took turns mocking Avraham for a statement she made at a Kadima rally in Tirat Hacarmel on Thursday night. They accused her of being disconnected from reality for suggesting that no one cared about Olmert's multiple investigations. "What happened?" Avraham shouted at the crowd. "It's true that this isn't the first investigation and not the second investigation and not the third investigation and not the fourth investigation, and I don't know if it's the last investigation. But why? Who does it really bother?"