In Israel, the Olmert government managed to survive the publication on January 30 of the final Winograd Report on the 2006 Lebanon War, because Defense Minister and Labor Party head Ehud Barak decided to keep the Labor Party in the Kadima-led coalition, reneging on an earlier pledge to resign if the final report were critical of the conduct of the war, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert nonetheless did not himself resign. Olmert announced he would stay in office, and so did Barak.
However, Olmert's government now faces a new coalition crisis, triggered by a report in the Jerusalem Post that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is conducting secret talks with the Palestinian Authority ["the PA"] over the division of Jerusalem. The Shas Party, a right-wing Sefardic religious party, whose Knesset votes are needed to preserve the governing coalition, had promised that it would not sit in a government that negotiated Jerusalem's fate. Now right-wing opposition parties are demanding that Shas live up to its promise. So far, Shas has reacted only by stating that it expects to be updated by Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni regarding any ongoing discussions over Jerusalem.
The Post reported:
The PA confirmed Sunday that Jerusalem was being discussed with Israel. Nimer Hammad, political adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the PA had sensed readiness on Israel's part to talk about the future of Jerusalem.
"The negotiations [with Israel] are not easy," [former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei, who heads the PA negotiating team,] said Sunday. "The topics which we're negotiating about are also not simple. These are the most difficult issues, and they include Jerusalem, the refugees, the borders and the settlements."
A senior PA official added that "Jerusalem was of course on the table" and that "there is almost full understanding with Israel" regarding the creation of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
In a separate story, the Post quoted an unnamed senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah as saying, "The main progress has been achieved during the secret talks, particularly on the issue of Jerusalem. Today we can say that Israel is prepared to withdraw from almost all the Arab neighborhoods and villages in Jerusalem. Israel is prepared to redivide Jerusalem and this is a positive development."
Will Shas prove as craven as Labor, and cling to power instead of principle, or is this [finally] the beginning of the end of the Olmert government?