Olmert meeting with right-wing opposition party leader Lieberman stirs speculation of a government reshuffle

debkafile: Prime minister Ehud Olmert has turned to the second largest opposition party because he is hard pressed by popular disaffection over his government’s handling of the Lebanon war and other issues. The Supreme Court has given him until Tuesday, Oct. 10, to respond to petitions that would force him against his will to accept a state inquiry commission with judicial authority. Protesters are leaning hard for the prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff to step down. The war against the Hizballah has left them with zero credibility for the task of overhauling the army for its next challenges.
For approval of the 2007 budget, the government is short of a parliament majority because of massive opposition to the social clauses. It includes defaulters in his partner-in-coalition Labor. Rejection of the budget by the Knesset automatically brings the government down. The prime minister and Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beitenu (Russian immigrants) are reported to have discussed Friday a pet Olmert scheme for constitutional reform that would merge the premiership with the presidency. He maintains this change is the key to stable Israeli government after years in which hardly a single administration lasted the course. However, any such reform is a pipe dream in the Knesset’s present mood. Few members are eager to extend this prime minister’s stay in office. The attempt to co-opt Lieberman’s party to the government would be a last resort for Olmert because of Labor’s objections – but not impossible for all that. In the meantime, Israel Beitenu may support the government on certain parliamentary votes, including the budget, for an agreed quid pro quo.

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