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May 2, 2007: First Fallout

May 2, 2007

Apologies: A computer malfunction prevented my posting the report I had drafted yesterday. An updated version is below and more will follow as events unfold. We are, of course, in a situation of flux — even from hour to hour — and momentum is mounting for changes in the government.

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To date, we are seeing the following in response to the interim Winograd report:

A special Cabinet meeting was held today. A committee, chaired by former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, is being formed to examine ways to implement the lessons of the Winograd Report, with a report due in a month.

A meeting of the Kadima faction of the government will be held tonight. Many members are reluctant to take a stand until after this meeting.

A special meeting of the Knesset will be held on Thursday to discuss the issues.

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Attorney Yossi Fuchs allowed no grass to grow under his feet. As he said he would do, he yesterday petitioned the High Court of Justice to require Olmert to resign.

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Eitan Cabel, who is secretary-general of the Labor party and served as a minister-without-portfolio in the current government, has submitted his resignation. He said yesterday that he stayed awake all night reading the Winograd report, and decided, "I cannot sit in a government that Olmert heads anymore." Calling his decision "ethical and principled," he expressed the hope that his resignation would generate a chain reaction.

Ami Ayalon, the frontrunner to win the primary this month for new leader of the Labor party, had at first declared that he didn’t think Olmert had to resign. But after reading the full report yesterday he reversed himself.

MK Avishai Braverman and Danny Yatom, also of Labor, have called publicly for Olmert to resign.

A meeting of the central committee of Labor will be called in ten days, to vote on leaving the coalition. MK Ofir Pines-Paz is promoting separation from the coalition.

Meretz faction head MK Zehava Gal-On praised Cabel and called for all the remaining ministers of the government to follow his example.

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On Tuesday, MK Marina Solodkin of Kadima was the first member of her party to publicly call for Olmert’s resignation: "the report that was published yesterday was so serious that according to what was written there, [Olmert] has to resign."

She was followed by MK Michael Nudelman, who said, "in a western country, after such a report, there would be no doubt that the prime minister must resign, but here we have a different tradition – we are country of chaos."

Coalition chairman Avigdor Yitzchaki (Kadima) is working to garner a sufficient number of Kadima members to effectively demand, during the special Knesset meeting Thursday, that Olmert resign. He feels strongly that Kadima is finished if Olmert doesn’t go, and says if Olmert stays, he will resign.

With reports that other "top officials" of Kadima will also be calling for Olmert’s resignation soon, there is a focus on Tzipi Livni and the enormous tensions brewing around her. YNet has cited a "senior source" within Kadima who claims that Livni has held private meetings with members of Kadima to discuss the possibility of her replacing Olmert — first as leader of Kadima, and then as prime minister. That she was doing this in spite of protests by her aides that she was not trying to replace him points to her lack of integrity. She is an opportunist without principles and the very last thing this country needs now.

Livni has so far refrained from making a public statement. She will be meeting Olmert privately later today and then making a statement at a press conference. Olmert is said to be livid with her, and determined to block her aspirations.

The very latest reports are that Livni will call for Olmert’s resignation and then resign herself if he refuses. (Actually, once she calls for his resignation, it is unlikely she can remain working with him in any event.)

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The position of Olmert — who is fighting with his last breath to keep his post — seems incomprehensible. There is a place for assuming responsibility for failure, recognizing that the country needs new faces, and bowing out with dignity. He seems incapable of doing this, which tells us a great deal about who he is. Word is that he is telling coalition members that their positions will be in jeopardy unless he remains. There are those Kadima members who are not yet taking a stand against him in order to allow him to work his way to a resignation gracefully; that resignation might be negotiated, so that it would not be immediate.

A poll was taken by channel 2 to ascertain what percentage of the Israeli populace would vote for Olmert as prime minister. Results: 0. This is not a typo. Zero. None. How could Olmert be so without self-respect, so oblivious to the national will, so obstinate, as to stay on in the face of this?

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Also particularly unconscionable, in my opinion, is the continued participation in the coalition of Yisrael Beitenu and Shas. Neither party is ideologically in line with the Kadima-Labor coalition. Both joined for their own narrow reasons. Now would be the chance to act for the national good, as their withdrawal would probably collapse the coalition. MK Tzvi Hendel (NU/NRP) is working on convincing the leading ministers from each party, Avigdor Lieberman and Eliyahu Yishai, respectively, to withdraw, so far to no effect.

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As we always need a bit of humor, I offer this (black humor perhaps): Unnamed "officials of Labor" have begun promoting Shimon Peres to take Olmert’s place. “An experienced person who is trusted and accepted should be running the country during this period." Well… Peres is neither trusted nor accepted. He’s a self serving has-been — who bolted from Labor to join Kadima and who should have been retired eons ago. If this is the best we can do, we’re in very big trouble. That doesn’t mean it might not happen, though Peres is publicly still saying he wants to be president.

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There are reports at present that Peretz, about whom very little is being said, is considering resigning.

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Note: On Monday I reported that Attorney Yossi Fuchs says that basic law requires the whole government to resign, not just Olmert. He is not only a constitutional lawyer, he is a very fine human being whose integrity I respect enormously. He devoted enormous personal energy to trying to keep the gov’t honest with regard to what was due those expelled from Gush Katif. And so, I figured that if he says so…

But then I began to see that various persons were referring to Olmert’s resignation, rather than resignation of the government, and a replacement for Olmert, rather than formation of a whole new government. Because my own confusion was mounting, I checked with another lawyer whom I respect enormously. He has confirmed precisely what Fuchs said:

If Olmert resigns, the entire gov’t is deemed to have resigned with him. The Acting President then has authority to appoint a member of the Knesset to form a new gov’t, without going to elections.

However, as Kadima is the largest party at present, and Acting President Dalia Itzik is from Kadima, it is likely that someone from Kadima would be chosen. The questions remain as to who would be chosen and whether a coalition could be put together. (This depends in part on whether Labor would be willing to participate and whether Kadima members
will sit still in the party or, in some instances, return to Likud).

If Olmert refuses to resign (an unlikely event considering the pressure on him), only a no-confidence vote would bring down his government and then the nation would likely go to elections.

If factions pull out from the coalition or members of Kadima bolt from the party, even if Olmert doesn’t resign, the gov’t would collapse and elections would be likely.

This is a vastly complicated situation, and I hope my explanation has helped a bit.

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Further notes:

There are differences of opinion surfacing regarding precisely what the Winograd Committee can and cannot do. It was not technically a governmental commission of inquiry when formulated — which would have meant its being under the auspices of the courts. Rather, it was a review committee appointed by Olmert — appointing such a committee being a way to diffuse anger directed at him — that met privately. Five individuals, several over 80 years of age.

There was in fact tension between what the courts wanted (release of testimony) and what the committee chose to do. But Fuchs says the government had at some point endowed the committee with the power of a commission of inquiry, and I am reading that there will be recommendations that accompany the final report, something that would not be expected of a review committee.

There are those who said that Olmert was being politically clever, controlling the committee by making the appointments; many expected it to go easy on Olmert for this reason. But the committee has acquitted itself with full integrity, socking it to Olmert and company. And it turns out that Olmert has no leeway for protesting since the committee was set up by him.

The report that is being dealt with now, while referred to as an interim report, is more technically a partial report. It is looking at the decisions that led up to going into war, ending at a specific early date. The full report due out this summer, which is expected to be even more critical, will look at how the war was managed.

Justice (retired) Winograd, chair, made it clear on Monday that the committee decided on this partial report because no lessons were being drawn from the mistakes of the war; they decided it was time to shake things up.

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This posting can be found at: https://www.arlenefromisrael.info/current-postings/2007/5/2/may-2-2007-first-fallout.html

 

 

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