Minister Without Portfolio Eitan Cabel of Labor announced his resignation from the Cabinet this morning (Tuesday), saying, "I can no longer sit in a government headed by Ehud Olmert." He read aloud the Winograd Commission findings naming Ehud Olmert as personally responsible for the failures of the Second Lebanon War.
The Winograd Commission's interim conclusions, released Monday, chiefly blamed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and ex-Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.(ret.) Dan Halutz - but also apportioned blame to the entire government. Cabel did not deny that he himself is included in this blame, but did not note this as his reason for resigning. He said he hopes his resignation will lead to a chain reaction of resignations by other ministers in the government.
This does not appear to be the case, however. Shas head Eli Yishai and Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman met today and agreed that Olmert need not resign at this point.
Cabel Against Arutz-7 and Har-Shefi
In the past, Cabel led the campaign against the Knesset's legalization of Arutz-7, and filed a petition in the Supreme Court against President Moshe Katzav's pardon for Margalit Har-Shefi.
Cabel, the Secretary-General of the Labor Party, has been re-considering his political path over the past weeks and months. He has told press interviewers that he is tired of the fact that "everything in politics is personal."
His resignation from the government does not necessarily mean he will quit the Knesset, however, or his position in the Labor Party. Labor is facing internal primaries for party leader four weeks from now - a campaign that has brought internal rivalries to the fore. Cabel said today he hopes that the new leader - he personally supports Ehud Barak - will remove the party from an Olmert-led coalition.
Olmert and Peretz have announced that they do not intend to quit. "It would not be right to quit," Olmert said last night, "and it is not my intention to do so." He said he would convene a special Cabinet session on Wednesday, at which he will propose a team to decide on the implementation of the Winograd findings and recommendations.
Two other coalition members have also called for Olmert's resignation - MK Marina Solodkin of Olmert's Kadima party, and MK Ami Ayalon of Labor. At least one unnamed senior Kadima minister has also been quoted in various media organs as saying that Olmert should quit.
Kadima's Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit, who has been critical of Olmert in the past, said that "now is not the time for chopping off heads." He is hoping to receive the Finance Ministry portfolio from Olmert.
Protests and Demands for Olmert's Resignation
The Security for Sderot Task Force plans to begin a march from Sderot to Tel Aviv, beginning this afternoon (Tuesday). The march is timed to end on Thursday afternoon, just as the large anti-Olmert protest, called by a large group of Lebanon War reservists and others, will be starting at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
"We are the proof that Olmert and Peretz have failed and continue to fail every day in the way they deal with the threat from Gaza," says Alon Davidi of Sderot. "We wish to add our voices to the demand for their immediate resignations."
Reservists organizing the Thursday protest say that the findings released yesterday are "merely the tip of the iceberg. Every day that Olmert and Peretz continue in their jobs, they endanger the citizens of Israel."
Supreme Court Petition
The Supreme Court has already received one petition demanding Olmert's resignation - though it quickly rejected it. Atty. Yosef Fuchs of the Land of Israel Legal Forum filed the suit. Fuchs explained that the Kahn Commission investigating the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982 found that one who is found to bear ministerial responsibility for a grave security or political fiasco, must resign or be fired. It will be recalled that then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was found to be responsible for the fact that the defense establishment did not succeed in preventing the Sabra and Shatila massacres, and ended his job on the spot.
The Chabad-affiliated "Rabbinical Council for the Nation and Land" said that the Winograd Commission failed in not noting that Israel's war failure stemmed from the Disengagement from Gush Katif and northern Shomron. "The Disengagement brought the army's functioning and readiness to an unprecedented low," the group's statement said. "An army that deals with expelling Jews and building a terror state in Gaza cannot defeat its enemies."