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January 16, 2008: On the Way

January 16, 2008

Finally, finally, MK Avigdor Lieberman has resigned from his post as Strategic Affairs Minister and announced that he is pulling his party, Yisrael Beitenu, out of the coalition because of disagreement with PM Olmert regarding negotiation on core issues. He has submitted a letter to the prime minister — who accepted the resignation; it becomes official in 48 hours. Lieberman says he will now work towards bringing the government down.


Olmert responded to Lieberman’s statement by saying that there was no alternative to negotiations for securing peace. As Aaron Lerner said on his IMRA site, "It would be one thing for PM Olmert’s spinners to claim that ‘serious diplomatic negotiations are the best alternative’ but to claim that there is ‘no alternative’ defies logic. It also makes Israel a hostage to the talks."


The pullout of Yisrael Beitenu, of itself, does not bring the government down, but it weakens it and provides impetus for others to follow. Shas is making noises about also resigning, which would bring the coalition under the minimum number of seats required. But Olmert is already courting United Torah Judaism (a haredi — ultra-Orthodox party) and Meretz (ultra liberal). Both parties are split on what to do — UTJ because of Olmert’s ideology and Meretz because of Olmert’s corruption. Olmert is, of course, offering various "perks." According to my calculation, Meretz alone would be insufficient, while UTJ would do it, but barely.

What needs to happen now is that Labor — with Barak at its head — must pull out. He’s going to be under enormous pressure to do so. When he assumed the role of defense minister, he declared that it would be only until the Winograd report came out. That report is due the end of this month and the word is that it is scathing.


Parenthetically, Lieberman, who has a predilection for non-politically correct and controversial statements, declared in his announcement that the Arab parties in Israel were more dangerous than Hamas and Hezbollah. His point, which has validity, is that they undermine from within. The Arab MKs reacted with predictable fury. MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) declared that Lieberman "suffers from racial AIDS." Racial AIDS? Such an attempt at drama ultimately provides only a moment of amusement.


Much more to cover , and it will come tomorrow…




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