If an American president were to resign, the vice president would immediately be sworn in as president. Not so in Israel. The vice prime ministers have no real legal standing and serve only at the pleasure of the prime minister. If he resigns, there is no automatic transference of power.
When Prime Minister Sharon was felled by a stroke 33 months ago, it was the vote of a majority of the Knesset that made Olmert prime minister. It was not an automatic event.
Despite Olmert’s resignation, he is still in charge until some other person receives the support of the majority of the Knesset. This situation can continue for seven months or more.
At the moment, Tzipi Livni, who won the election as the new head of the Kadima political party, has been given the task by the president of Israel to try to form a new majority coalition government. She has 42 days, by law, to get 61 members of the Knesset to vote her into power. She has been trying to do that for the past month.
Should Livni fail to convince 61 members of the Knesset to choose her as prime minister, the president has two choices: he can give someone else the mandate to get
61 parliamentarians to vote for him/her, or he can request that the Knesset call for new elections (within three additional months). The president does not have to give anyone else a chance to form a government, and Olmert will remain at the helm of the government.
Livni has met with various religious leaders and offered them millions of shekels for their parties and educational institutions. Part of the problem is that different factions have conflicting demands and will not sit with each other in the same government. On the other hand, money speaks loudly, and some parties may forget their principles and convince themselves that they should join the government for the “common good.” They may convince themselves or their rabbis that the unity of Jerusalem may not be that important, and that the communities of Judea and Samaria may be sacrificed without any real danger to Israel.
Tzipi Livni’s job is to find a compromise solution or enough money and jobs that will satisfy most of the demands of a potential coalition party leader. Should she fail, Ehud Olmert will remain caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed or new elections held.
All in all, we may remain stuck with Olmert, a lame duck prime minister, who seems willing to sell much of Israel’s land to the Arabs in order to polish his place in history. He seems to want to be remembered as the prime minister who brought “peace” to the region rather than to be remembered as an accused crook and bribe taker.
Let us hope that our prayers during the High Holy Days will thwart Olmert’s goals, bring an end to Arab terror and aggression, and bring real peace and tranquility to Israel and the world.
Chag Sameach to all.
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