Yisrael Beitenu Quits Government

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Yisrael Beitenu party head Avigdor Lieberman made good on his promise to quit the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when it began negotiations this week on "core issues" with the Palestinians, which include the status of Jerusalem, final borders, and Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

At a press conference Wednesday, Lieberman thanked the prime minister for his candor.

"I want to thank Ehud Olmert for his candor," Lieberman said. "We have always been open with one another, and it was obvious that we would not agree on fundamental issues," he said.

"Approximately a week before [the U.S.-sponsored] Annapolis [conference], we put out a document red lines. We delineated in the clearest possible terms what we are willing to abide with and what we cannot. Two weeks before Annapolis, I met with Olmert in his home and restated our red lines," Lieberman told reporters.

Yisrael Beitenu's departure from the government leaves the Olmert coalition with 67 ministers, out of the 120-seat Knesset. At least 61 seats are needed to keep the coalition.

The Shas party, with 12 seats, led by Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai, has repeatedly said it would not stay in the government if Jerusalem is put on the chopping block.

There is also some question of the Labor party remaining in the government once the final Winograd Commission report investigating the government's conduct during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 is published at the end the month.

The commission's interim report, issued April 30, severely criticized former Defense Minister Amir Peretz, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Lt.-General Dan Halutz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni joined the call for the prime minister to step down, but later retracted her statement.

Defense Minister and Labor party chairman Ehud Barak, who said he would pull his party out of the government when the full report was published, now says he will wait and see.

At the end of today's press conference, Lieberman said he will begin working to bring down the Olmert government.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news service, Haaretz

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