Lieberman. Will weight his options
Photo: Dana Koppel
Olmert-Abbas meeting, Tuesday
Photo: Moshe Milner, JPO
Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman will not announce his resignation from the government before the end of US President George W. Bush's visit to Israel.
Lieberman has said that he will not respond to the results of Tuesday's meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in which the two leaders decided to jumpstart the negotiations on the core issues, including Jerusalem's status.
The possibility for Lieberman's withdrawal from the coalition was raised following a document issued by his faction following the Annapolis peace conference, which determined that Yisrael Beiteinu will not be part of a government discussing the core issues, including Jerusalem, the borders and the refugees.
Earlier this week, Lieberman said that he would leave the government once the talks on the core issues begin. Now, after the Prime Minister's announcement that the discussion on the core issues will begin in the coming days, Lieberman has been pushed into a corner.
The minister for strategic affairs plans to ask for a "clarification talk" with the prime minister, following the decisions made during the meeting with Abbas. Immediately after Lieberman was informed about the agreement between the two leaders, he asked his aides not to rush to respond, despite growing calls in the political arena.
Knesset Member Gilad Erdan (Likud) called on Lieberman to leave the government immediately. "His resignation will help the Likud and the national camp to defend Jerusalem and the future of the State against Olmert's liquidation sale, which is aimed at saving himself from the Winograd Commission."
Olmert's associates said that Lieberman had not reason to resign from the government as no committees have been appointed to discuss the core issues. The prime minister's aides are trying to avoid a severe collation crisis which may lead to early elections following the release of the final Second Lebanon War probe report at the end of the month.
Lieberman is expected to make his decision only after weighing all his options. Alongside the fears of a coalition crisis, it appears that the Shas ministers have ironed out their difficulties with the prime minister and have come up with a solution that would enable them to remain in the government.
According to the Shas proposal, the US will release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for gestures to the Palestinians, including a prisoner release.
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report