Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's offer of concessions to the Palestinian Authority on Monday angered his newest cabinet minister, Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who vowed to prevent them from taking place. The Israel Beiteinu faction decided to oppose concessions to the Palestinians unless there was a complete cessation of violence and weapons smuggling, terrorist organizations were dismantled and their illegal weapons confiscated. Sources in the faction downplayed Olmert's statements as "mere declarations" but warned that if they lead to actions, Israel Beiteinu would also "take action."
Read the full text of Olmert's address
"Our job is to prevent rash and hasty steps," Lieberman told reporters at the Knesset. "We paid a heavy price for failing to stop Oslo, which was one adventure too many."
Meretz leader Yossi Beilin said his party would offer Olmert a parliamentary safety net for diplomatic steps as it did ahead of the Gaza Strip withdrawal. Noting Olmert's dovish speech, he joked that he might face competition from Olmert for the Meretz leadership.
Olmert also received praise from the Labor Party, which issued a statement calling the speech a step toward the peace process that Labor had been advocating for years. Labor chairman Amir Peretz vowed to support Olmert and stop his recent fight with him.
"It could be that there are those trying to create bad blood between our offices," Peretz told Army Radio. "There are some people for whom this is the only way to make money in Israeli politics. But I intend to make every effort to create an atmosphere of cooperation and act responsibly. We don't have the luxury to waste our days on worthless political struggles."
Inside Kadima, there were no MKs willing to criticize the prime minister from the Right. MK Otniel Schneller, a former settler leader who is considered one of the most right-wing MKs in Kadima, called the speech "middle of the road, between Left and Right" and said there was nothing in it he opposed.
Olmert's comments were slammed by right-wing MKs, who have continually accused the prime minister of taking a soft line towards the Palestinians. A Likud spokesman said that the party felt that Olmert was too quick to concede to the Palestinians.
"This is another spin from the Prime Minister's Office, which is trying to compensate for Olmert's lack of leadership or diplomatic platform," the spokesman said.
MK Zvi Hendel (NU-NRP) slammed Olmert, saying that he had "no expectations from the prime minister.
"I have no expectations from someone with no moral standing," Hendel said. "He is not ashamed to promise the enemy the expulsion of all settlers and creation of a terror state. I hope that Lieberman and [Shas chairman Eli] Yishai do not betray their voters and quit Olmert's cabinet table now," said Hendel.
Jewish National Front Party Chairman Baruch Marzel called Olmert "both a traitor and an idiot." He said said "it is astonishing to see how a man doesn't learn from his own mistakes and continues to lead Israel into an abyss."