Olmert meets with Barak to steady shaky coalition

Sources in PM's Office accuse Livni of lying to Winograd panel

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with a number of party leaders over the weekend in an effort to hold together his shaky coalition, officials in the Prime Minister's Office said. In addition to meeting with leaders of the parties in his coalition, Olmert also met with Labor chairman candidate Ehud Barak, said one Labor official. "There was talk of an agreement which would be mutually beneficial to both of them," the Labor official said, adding that the agreement under consideration stipulates that if Barak became Labor chief, he would not take Labor out of the coalition, in exchange for Olmert agreeing to an early election date. Labor would also keep the ministerial posts it currently holds. Barak is neck-and-neck with Labor MK Ami Ayalon, according to polls conducted last week. The most recent polls saw Barak drop slightly in the wake of the Winograd Committee's report. The report's ramifications continued to be felt across the political sphere as opposition parties geared up for the upcoming Knesset session. Following a six-week recess, the Knesset returns for its summer session on Monday. A Knesset spokesman said four no-confidence motions had already been filed. "The opposition is ready to do what it must and fight against this current disaster of a government," said Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar. None of those no-confidence motions were expected to pass, a Knesset spokesman said. Opposition MKs said the motions symbolized the "trouble" that the opposition has in store for the Olmert government. Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines said he was preparing his own "trouble" for Olmert in the form of a protest tent outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. Following some trouble obtaining the necessary permits, Paz-Pines announced he would begin sitting outside the protest tent Monday morning. "I call on the public to come to the tent in front of the prime minister's home and sound a voice of protest against the prime minister," he said. "I hope that the Labor Party, which will meet next week at my request, will reach a decision to leave this government. This would expedite the process of Olmert's resignation." Moti Ashkenazi, one of the leaders of the anti-government protest in 1973 following the Yom Kippur War, announced he would join Paz-Pines in the protest tent. It appeared on Saturday that no other ministers were planning to resign for the time being. Sighting his "duty to the public," Defense Minister and Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz said Saturday he was not planning to leave his post any time soon. "I will not run away from my duties," said Peretz. He added that he wanted to stay in office as long as possible so that he could implement changes recommended in the Winograd Report. Meanwhile, tensions continued to rise between Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office accused Livni of lying during her testimony to the Winograd Committee, according to news reports. The sources said she claimed to have suggested certain diplomatic initiatives that the Prime Minister's Office had "no record of." The Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Livni was continuing with her work at the ministry and not spending her time on "trivial and unfounded" suggestions. The Prime Minister's Office said Olmert was still considering what to do about Livni but was not currently interested in destabilizing the cabinet.•