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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Does Olmert Have a Coalition?

Ehud Olmert and his Kadima Achora party may not have a coalition. That's the upshot of a number of reports in the Israeli press this morning.

Olmert thought he had reached an agreement with Shas, but the JPost reports that Shas has three significant problems with that agreement:

1. The agreement states flat out that the government will withdraw from portions of Judea and Samaria; Shas' right-wing electorate will never accept that. While a 'softer' version of the provision has now been written to appeal to Shas, it's not clear whether this will be sufficient to entice Shas into the coalition.

2. The agreement states that the coalition will "introduce, without delay, legislation to solve the problem of those unable to get married." That's a euphamism for permitting civil marriage, to which Shas cannot agree (and for which it was already attacked last week by the other Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) party - United Torah Judaism).

3. Olmert now wants to cut Shas from four ministers to three.

Add to this significant doubts as to whether Yisrael Beiteinu will join the coalition or support Olmert's convergence surrender plan, and Olmert has a serious problem. Yisrael Beiteinu is opposed to the convergence surrender plan.

If Yisrael Beteinu is out, Shas is out (Shas cannot join the coalition if it cannot convince its voters that surrender would have passed without it - Shas has a right-wing electorate and during the campaign it promised not to join a government that made withdrawal from Judea and Samaria part of its guidelines) and United Torah Judaism is out (over the marriage issue, and probably also over the surrender issue although they are unlikely to admit it), this leaves Olmert with Kadima, Labor, the Pensioners and possibly the left-wing Meretz party. That's sixty seats and that's not a coalition. And even if they could govern, there is no way the surrender plan can go through if it needs the support of the Arab parties to pass.

Now, let's add another set of problems to the mix: Amir Peretz is facing an internal revolt in the Labor party over the way that ministries are being apportioned. Even if Labor joins the coalition (as still appears likely), if they are already facing intra-party opposition at this stage how long will it be until a real revolt develops?


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