No reason to panic, PM tells Yishai ahead of meeting

Yishai said he would seek assurances in his meeting with the prime minister that Jerusalem's fate would not be negotiated with the Palestinians.

har homa 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
har homa 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried to ease the fears of his only right-wing coalition partner on Monday when he told Shas chairman Eli Yishai that the time had not come yet for him to take any "dramatic" steps. Olmert and Yishai will get together on Tuesday for the formal meeting that Yishai requested after Israel Beiteinu's departure from the coalition last week. But Olmert made a point of being friendly with Yishai on Monday in three public appearances together. "It is too soon for drama," Olmert told Yishai in the Knesset plenum, reassuring him that construction will continue in Jerusalem despite reports to the contrary. Yishai said he would seek assurances in his meeting with the prime minister that Jerusalem's fate would not be negotiated with the Palestinians. "If there will be negotiations on Jerusalem, we will leave the coalition," Yishai told The Jerusalem Post. "After our meeting, I will relay what the prime minister tells me about Jerusalem to the Shas Council of Torah Sages to make a decision [about our future]." Olmert made a point of downplaying the potential for his ouster following the January 30 publication of the final Winograd Report. When he pointed out in a meeting on parliamentary reform that the Knesset had the power to overthrow him, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik told Olmert "not to give anyone any ideas." The prime minister responded that "those who have such ideas will have a long time to amuse themselves [while contemplating such a step]." Olmert already faced a mini-rebellion in his coalition during the Likud's no-confidence motion on Monday. MKs Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima) and Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) purposely absented themselves from the vote, MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) abstained and MKs Ze'ev Elkin (Kadima) and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) attended the vote but did not participate. Labor faction chairman Eitan Cabel and MK Danny Yatom (Labor) voted with the government but said they would vote differently after Winograd's publication. Cabel warned Labor chairman Ehud Barak that the faction would have to decide together about whether they should remain in the coalition. "Our faction will not be like the Pied Piper of Hamelin and follow our leader blindly," Cabel said. Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman enjoyed the fruits of his resignation on Monday, receiving praise from Sderot residents who were invited to a meeting of his Knesset faction. The head of the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva, Rabbi David Fendel, said Lieberman "maintained his principles" and proved that he had "long-term vision." IDF reservists on Monday stepped up the pressure on Olmert Monday with the publication of a letter demanding his resignation signed by 50 company commanders. "Senior military commanders paid the price for their failures and were forced to resign, while you, who are at the top of the system, refuse to accept standards of personal responsibility," read the letter, which was shown on Channel 2 news. "Anyone who is not committed to personal responsibility cannot send people to war, and this is true of a prime minister as it is of every company commander." In the letter the officers emphasize that they will continue to serve and follow orders, but assert that "it is not only our privilege but our duty to demand that you change your mind, accept responsibility for your failures in the Second Lebanon War and make the necessary personal conclusions." Sheera Claire Frenkel and Elie Leshem contributed to this report.