Kadima, Labor Unite to Preserve Gov't.

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Kadima and Labor party heads reached an agreement late Tuesday evening at the Tel Aviv home of Defense Minister and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak.

At Barak's home, MKs (members of Knesset) Tzachi Hanegbi, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and party steering committee chairman Eitan Kabel agreed not to support the bill to dissolve the Knesset (parliament), slated to be brought to the floor for a preliminary vote Wednesday.

Barak also met with Rishon Lezion Mayor Meir Nitzan Tuesday to work out more details of the arrangement with Kadima.

The agreement between the two parties outlines a schedule for Kadima to choose a new chairman before September 25, giving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert an additional three months in office and postponing the potential for general elections before year's end.

Earlier in the week, Olmert threatened to fire any Labor minister who voted in favor of Likud MK Silvan Shalom's bill to dissolve the present Knesset.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas party, meanwhile, has waffled on its support of the bill, waiting to see the final decision regarding its demand for increased child welfare payments.

"If there are no benefit payments, we will vote in favor of dispersal," one Shas MK said.

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On has thus far refused to give in to the party's demand, but Olmert reportedly offered Shas chairman Eli Yishai some sizeable alternate funding.

According to senior Kadima members, Olmert and Barak have no real ideological differences, which paved the way for working out a mutually satisfactory arrangement.

Opposition MKs Slam the Agreement

Opposition MKs blasted the last-minute deal between the two parties.

"The compromise between the two parties was reached on the back of the public," Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar said.

Likud MKs accused Barak of the same breach of promise that occurred in January, when the Winograd Committee -- assessing the government's handling of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006 -- published its final report.

"How can Barak sit in the Olmert government after saying that [Olmert] is not fit for the job and cannot continue in his role?" asked one Likud official.

MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union/National Religious Party) accused the defense minister of "zigzagging."

"[Barak] has spit in the face of the Israeli public," Orlev said.

"Olmert, the [cash] envelope-receiver, and Barak, the breaker of promises, have crossed all bounds of cynicism with the stinking maneuver they have hatched together," he said.

MK Zahava Gal-On of the ultra-left-wing Meretz Party asked how the Labor Party could enable a prime minister under criminal investigation to remain in power instead of replacing him with an alternative government.

Sources: Haaretz, YNet news, The Jerusalem Post

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