Party politics put on hold

The Knesset began a three-month recess on Thursday, but political activity in Israel has been on vacation since the June 25 attack at Kerem Shalom near Gaza ignited the recent escalation in violence. The three largest political parties have all canceled major political events since then. With the exception of Arab MKs, the opposition has been completely supportive of the government, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was even able to give a half-hour address to the Knesset plenum Tuesday without getting heckled. Kadima postponed a festive faction meeting for MKs and their spouses that was set to be held at Olmert's official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday. The party has also delayed the founding meeting of its governing council and events marking the formation of party branches across the country. The Labor Party's house committee had been set to meet on Thursday to begin the process of postponing its next party primary. According to Labor's bylaws, when the party loses a general election, a primary must be held within 14 months. The chairman of the committee, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, has received support from most potential leadership contenders to delay the race from next spring to the summer of 2008. Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu had intended to embark on a tour of communities that would become confrontation-line communities if Olmert implements his West Bank realignment plan. The first event had been set for Kfar Saba last Wednesday, the day that Hizbullah started the violence in the North. Netanyahu and the Likud faction paid a visit to Haifa on Tuesday that received little coverage. Many other MKs visited the North this week in hopes of receiving publicity but left empty-handed. Coalition negotiations with United Torah Judaism have also been put on hold and talk of forming a "national emergency government" with Likud and Israel Beiteinu ended the same day it began.