Ministers: Suspend Talks, Hold Elections

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Following Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's resignation announcement Wednesday evening, members of Knesset (MKs, parliament) from across the political spectrum called for a suspension of all negotiations and new parliamentary elections.

"This government has reached an end and it doesn't matter who heads Kadima [the political party led by Olmert]," Likud chairman and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu told Israel Radio.

"National responsibility requires a return to the people and new elections," he said.

Communications Minister Ariel Atias (Shas) called on Olmert to discontinue "secret" talks with the Palestinian Authority and with Syria.

"The prime minister lacks the public or political legitimacy to continue with the negotiations," Atias told YNet news.

"From the moment he announced he was stepping down, he is only considered the [government's] caretaker. What legitimacy does he have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians or with Syria that the next government would be bound to?" he asked.

"It sounds pathetic," said Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who left Olmert's coalition in January over the discussion of "core issues" between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams.

"The prime minister's speech was stately, conscientious and solemn. I suggest he refrain from ruining that effect," Lieberman said.

"He doesn't have a majority in the Knesset. He doesn't even have a majority in his own party. He can't lead any process," he said.

Following the prime minister's press conference Wednesday evening, Defense Minister and Labor party chairman Ehud Barak called Olmert's decision "proper and responsible" and "made at the right time."

Meanwhile Vice Premier Haim Ramon, a member of Olmert's Kadima party and a close personal friend of the prime minister, told Army Radio that the "chance of holding new elections is high."

Source: YNet news

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