Olmert government may tumble in Jerusalem: As if there wasn't enough bad news, it's election season again?!

The latest news from Israel: the Shas party is bargaining with rightwinger-but-currently-centrist Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz to stave off new elections - if the new prime minister can't form a government.....

New Prime Minister?! Oy vey...

Mofaz parlays with Shas to avoid early elections - Haaretz - Israel News

By Mazal Mualem

Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz has been forging closer links with Shas to head off early elections and lay the groundwork for an alternative government headed by him in the current Knesset.

Mofaz has held several discussions with the Shas chairman - Industry Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai - and Communications Minister Ariel Atias. The two reportedly told him that they would support him if he promised to increase child allowances. Shas sources said party leaders have already reached agreements with Mofaz on this issue.

Mofaz believes he can prevent early elections and is acting to secure Shas' support before the Kadima leadership primary. This would give him a huge advantage over his main rival, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is leading in the public opinion polls.

Mofaz believes that Kadima's Knesset faction and the party's central activists and mayors, who fear falling from power if new elections are held, would support him.

Mofaz sees himself as "naturally connected" to Shas due to his religious and right-wing background. In private conversations he has said he can also bring Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu back into the coalition.

He has said the last thing Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak wants is early elections.

Mofaz will launch a campaign against a pullout from the Golan Heights today, to strengthen his support among right-wing voters in general. He intends to tour the Golan and meet residents there.

Yep, this pretty much sucks.

It turns out that Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of Israel took big ol' envelopes of cash from some skeezy American guy back in his headier days. Not a big surprise, but the problem is that the wobbly Israeli government is apparently about to crumble.

The choice thing about Israel's annoying government system is that the cabinet ministers are all from different parties, so you have a cross-partisan seige mentality at every cabinet meeting. In theory this could stabilize a diverse country, but in reality it has perpetually gridlocked every political development in Israel.

Every span of time required to actually execute a tough political maneuver and achieve better peace with the Arabs gets interrupted by some stupid, destabilizing party squabble, which amplifies and multiplies, ricocheting across the region. Plus, the parties (especially Shas) are notorious for treating "their" ministries as absurd, corrupt rackets.

Every time something is actually going in the right direction for Israel (the calmer periods such as the 1990s and after the peace treaty with Egypt), the internal tensions among Israeli political parties flare up. Generally this causes the Israeli government to back away from the Arabs generally, and swat around more, all in a futile effort to keep all the party hacks at the Israeli cabinet table happy.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration policy has simply let all these fault lines fester out of control.

Perhaps Olmert will be able to stick it out, but unfortunately kind of crisis is all too easily expected -- Olmert never had a sterling reputation in terms of corruption.

A few days ago from good ol' Haaretz:

Barak, too, comes in for harsh criticism - Haaretz - Israel News

By Shahar Ilan

Politicians from across the spectrum were quick to criticize Defense Minister Ehud Barak's speech yesterday, in which he called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to leave his post.

Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said an "elections dynamic" is starting to develop in the Knesset, and "I do not see a chance to establish a new government from within the Knesset." According to Yishai, Shas is the only party which does not need to fear elections.

The head of the Likud faction, MK Gideon Saar, said "Barak's news conference was a copy of [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni's unimpressive news conference after the Winograd [Committee report]. It is impossible to reconcile the understanding that Olmert is not fit to be prime minister, and between [Barak's] remaining in the cabinet," said Saar.

The Meretz faction called Barka's words "lip service written on ice without any schedule or ultimatum with them."

MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) disputed that view, saying "Barak has moved in the right direction, but too little and too slowly, and without a schedule."

On the other side, MK Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party) said that he very much hopes "that Barak understands that the public will not put up with another round of zigzags and doublespeak from him."

Likud filed a no-confidence motion yesterday, saying it is clear the government has reached its end, and called on the coalition partners to stop with political maneuvering and agree to a date for early elections.

The National Union-National Religious Party filed its own no-confidence motion based on Tuesday's testimony by Morris Talansky.

The head of the National Religious Party, Zevulun Orlev, accused Barak of making empty promises. "Instead of making a decisive political act that would bring about the end of Olmert's tenure and move up the elections, Barak has chosen to make an amorphous statement without any schedule."

Barak did have some support from within his own party, as MK Collette Avital (Labor) described his words as "sharp and clear." Avital said it was up to Kadima to choose its path as soon as possible.

Two Kadima MKs, Amira Dotan and Zeev Elkin, joined the calls for Olmert's resignation. Dotan wrote Olmert a letter saying there is crisis of faith in him, and he should find a way to allow Kadima to choose new leadership.

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