World and Nation

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert Survives 3 No-Confidence Votes in Parliament

Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, survived three no-confidence votes against his government on Monday, part of the political fallout from a harsh report on the country's leadership during last summer's war in Lebanon.

Olmert's governing coalition affords him a large majority in the 120-seat Parliament, and the no-confidence motions were all rejected by a comfortable margin. Nevertheless, the results revealed cracks in support from Parliament members belonging to the coalition: at least 16 of them were either absent, voted no confidence or abstained.

The motions were brought on the opening day of the Parliament's summer session by rightist, leftist and religious opposition parties.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the rightist Likud Party, called for new elections and told the Cabinet, which has pledged to carry out the recommendations of the war report, "You are not the solution, you are the problem."

The leader of the leftist Meretz Party, Yossi Beilin, said that the lack of confidence had penetrated the public, the Parliament and even Olmert's party, Kadima. Beilin told the Parliament that a minister in Kadima, whom he did not identify, had told him that the prime minister "poses a national danger to Israel."

Furthermore, the Labor Party, which sits in the coalition, is holding primaries for the party leadership in late May, and several contenders have already stated their intention of taking the party out of the coalition if Olmert remains in office.

Still, there is no consensus on who, or what, should come next. Netanyahu has come out as a favorite for the prime minister's job in recent opinion polls. For that reason, Beilin has argued that new elections are not necessary, and that change can come about through parliamentary procedures instead. According to the polls, at least two-thirds of the public would like to see Olmert go.

In northern Gaza on Monday, Israeli air force planes fired on a car that army officials said was laden with explosives and on its way to launch rockets into Israel. The Islamic Jihad group, which has claimed responsibility for several rocket attacks in recent days, said that two of its members escaped from the car before it was hit. Hospital officials in Gaza said that one passer-by was wounded in the Israeli strike.

According to an Israeli army spokesman, 14 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since Friday. One rocket hit a house next to a kindergarten in the Israeli border town of Sderot on Monday morning, but caused no injuries.

The eclectic nature of the opposition to Olmert could be seen at a protest camp set up by two students near the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. Zichri Weiner, 27, and Itai Harari, 28, walked here from Tel Aviv, pitched their tents on the sidewalk and called on the Israeli public to join them in their demand for Olmert to resign.