August 22, 2006

Top lawmaker calls for Israel government reshuffle

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's
coalition government is in trouble and should be reshuffled
after a dispute stemming from the war in Lebanon, a top
lawmaker in Olmert's Kadima party said on Tuesday.

Tensions flared after deputies from Kadima's top coalition
partner, the left-leaning Labor party, balked at supporting a
two billion shekel ($459 million) budget cut aimed at helping
northern Israel recover from the month-long war with Hizbollah.

"The meaning of this is that Israel has no coalition today.
The Labor Party isn't a coalition partner you can rely on,"
Kadima's coalition whip Avigdor Yitzhaki told Israel Radio
after a stormy committee debate.

"Therefore I will propose to the prime minister that he do
an immediate reshuffle to restart the coalition process."

Labor members said they objected to cuts in welfare
spending. Labor is led by Amir Peretz, Israel's defense

Olmert was already under fire for his handling of the war,
sparked when Hizbollah guerrillas seized two soldiers in a
cross-border raid. A ceasefire declared a week ago has largely

There are growing calls from right and left-wing Israeli
lawmakers alike for elections or a full inquiry into the war.

Hundreds of returning reservists have signed a letter
accusing the government of mismanaging the fighting and failing
to deal a decisive blow against Hizbollah. Many have called on
Olmert and Peretz to resign.

Without Labor as a coalition partner, Olmert would likely
be forced to turn to right-wing lawmakers, notably former
finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose popularity has risen
after his calls to crush Hizbollah during the war.