UTJ, Meretz split on joining gov't

Lieberman expected to announce leaving coalition on Wednesday morning.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Before Israel Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman even announced his decision about whether he would remove his party from the coalition, Kadima officials already approached United Torah Judaism MK Ya'acov Litzman about returning to his former position as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee. Current committee chairman Stas Meseznikov of Israel Beiteinu expressed outrage that Kadima was so quick to replace him. "It could be that they are eulogizing us too fast," Meseznikov told reporters at Israel Beiteinu's secretariat meeting in Jerusalem on Tuesday. "If the prime minister wanted us to stay, he should behave differently." UTJ MK Avraham Ravitz said that under the right conditions, he believed he could persuade his faction to join. However, his party colleague Litzman said he would recommend to his rabbis against joining the government, because of its diplomatic policies and due to cuts in child allotments. "There's no reason to save this government," Litzman said. Meretz MKs were also divided about whether their party could join the government and under what circumstances. Party chairman Yossi Beilin and the front-running candidate to succeed him, MK Haim Oron, were more open to the idea than the other two candidates, MKs Zehava Gal-On and Ran Cohen. "We in Meretz will not crown Netanyahu and the Right," Beilin said. "If Israel Beiteinu leaves, Meretz's path to the government is still not paved, because of Olmert's responsibility for the war and for the government's policies on matters of religion and state, the judicial system and the widening socioeconomic gap. But Meretz will back any step that would advance chances for peace in the region." Oron said that as long as Lieberman was not in the government, Meretz could join. He said he would have no problem sitting in a government with Shas as he had when Labor chairman Ehud Barak was prime minister. "If Olmert invited us for coalition talks, we would come and listen," Oron said. "But we are not jumping into the coalition, especially not before Winograd." Gal-On and Cohen said that Olmert must resign before Meretz could join the government. "I would join a government led by [Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni or whoever else Kadima would choose, but not Olmert, who is responsible for the failures of the Second Lebanon War, according to the Winograd Committee," Cohen said. "But only if the government would pursue peace, remove illegal outposts and not include Avigdor Lieberman." Gal-On said, "Meretz has an ethical obligation to insist that Olmert accept responsibility for his blunders and resign." "Meretz can't join an Olmert-led government even if it negotiates a peace agreement," Gal-On said. "Another prime minister in an alternative government can make peace. The peace camp is not a refuge for failed leaders."