Likud aims no-confidence motion at PM's 'embarrassing' overtures to Assad in Paris

A week after declaring a surprise no-confidence vote as a test for the government, Likud's Knesset leadership has found a new handle for their weekly no-confidence vote against the coalition: Olmert in Paris. After weeks of Likud-sponsored no-confidence votes every Monday throughout the legislature's summer session focused on the general theme of "a government without a path," Monday's no-confidence motion will be on the basis of what the Likud termed "the embarrassing obsequiousness of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni toward the Syrian dictator at the Paris Conference" last week. "The government of Israel awarded invaluable international legitimacy to the Syrian dictator [President Bashir Assad] and rescued him from diplomatic isolation with its own hands," explained Likud leaders in their official letter petitioning for a no-confidence motion. "In the pursuit of a handshake at the Paris Conference, an additional layer of national humiliation was added to the amateurish diplomacy. Such a government does not deserve confidence." The measure, which is not expected to pass, refers to the video footage shown after the Mediterranean Conference, where twice it appeared that Olmert was 'tagging along' behind Assad in the hopes of a photo-op handshake. Assad clearly was aware of Olmert's presence, but gave him - literally - the cold shoulder. Within hours after the footage aired, Likud MKs began to blast Olmert for his pursuit of the elusive salutation. The no-confidence motion based on Olmert's diplomatic policy will be especially timely Monday, coming less than four hours after Olmert - and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu - welcome British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the Knesset. Likud's no-confidence motion will join another four motions submitted for Monday votes by opposition parties on the Right and Left. Thus far in the session, none of these weekly votes has even come close to threatening the coalition. Although it is not expected to change the outcome of the votes, this week's no-confidence line-up offers a new player on the field as Justice for the Elderly Chairman MK Moshe Sharoni takes the podium to blast the coalition for what he describes as its failure to honor coalition agreements regarding increasing pensions for senior citizens. Sharoni's opposition to the coalition became much more emphatic when his bill to increase pensions failed to pass its recent committee reading after Kadima and Gil Pensioner's Party MKs withdrew their support in a surprise move Wednesday. At the time, an enraged Sharoni claimed that the government had violated a deal that it had made with his party.