Opposition to PM's inquiry decision grows

Peretz has been having trouble keeping support in the party, and therefore might join the opposition.

olmert 88 (photo credit: )
olmert 88
(photo credit: )
Opposition to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to launch two committees of inquiry swelled in the Knesset Tuesday, as politicians rejected his decision as "insufficient and cowardly." Labor ministers Ophir Paz-Pines and Eitan Cabel added their voices to the growing complaints about the decision and promised they would vote against it in the upcoming cabinet meeting. "I intend to oppose [Olmert's decision] in the government, and will try to convince other ministers," said Paz-Pines. "The commission Olmert has appointed to investigate the political echelons does not have clear authority or a timetable, and increasing the number of commissions of inquiry will lead to chaos." Knesset members were disappointed Monday night when Olmert ignored their calls for a state committee of inquiry, which would have the authority to conduct a comprehensive investigation and dismiss officials if it saw fit. The two committees formed by Olmert will independently investigate the government's handling of the war. While the opposition party MKs sounded their criticism of Olmert's decision immediately following his announcement, opponents within the coalition have been slower to emerge. Several MKs have taken parliamentary action against Olmert, including MK Arye Eldad (NU-NRP), who filed a private bill to call for a state commission, and MK Uri Ariel (NU-NRP), who called on Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to convene the Knesset immediately for an emergency session. In the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, all of the MKs save the three Kadima MKs issued a call for a state commission on Tuesday. While opposition among the MKs grew, there was little they could do to force Olmert to retract the two inquiry committees and form a state commission. If, however, enough ministers were convinced to vote against the inquiry committees, Olmert could be faced with a serious rebellion that might lead to reevaluating the coalition, said a source in the Prime Minister's Office. That type of rebellion remained unlikely, however, as many ministers said they were still gauging the public's reaction and the ongoing reservist protests before they decided on their support. Most important may be the decision by Defense Minister and Labor chairman Amir Peretz. Sources close to Peretz said he was still weighing his options, but had no fear of a state commission of inquiry. "It would be seen as a real slap in the face if Peretz joined the opposition to Olmert's decision," said one source in the Defense Ministry. The declaration by Cabel, however, who serves as Labor faction chairman and has been a close ally to Peretz, could nudge Peretz closer to the opposition. "Peretz has been having trouble keeping support in the party, and he might be forced to join the opposition so that he can reel in criticism that he has become an Olmert lackey," said one senior Labor Party official. Labor MKs Avishay Braverman, Ami Ayalon, Danny Yatom and Matan Vilna'i, who have led the rebellion against Peretz's leadership, have all come out against the two inquiry committees and in favor of a state commission of inquiry.