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Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) on Saturday night criticized the decision by the Likud ministers to remain in the government, and called for them to act on their original decision for an immediate departure, made a few days before Sharon's hospitalization.

But Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio on Sunday morning that, "now is not the time to discuss resignation of Likud ministers."

Rivlin, however, said that the Likud must fight Olmert's policies with the same energy with which it opposed those of Sharon.

"The Likud must quit the government and battle Olmert head-on, with more determination than in the struggle against Ariel Sharon," Rivlin told Haaretz.

"The Likud can help Acting Prime Minister Olmert maintain government stability from the opposition," said Rivlin. "But our continued participation in a government headed by Olmert until the elections, as some of the ministers want, constitutes support of Olmert's policies, which are policies of the left."

Rivlin said the Likud's immediate resignation from the government is more important now than when Sharon was prime minister.

"With Sharon you could still say that the public relies on him to do the right thing, because he didn't really show his cards, and didn't fully reveal his plans," said Rivlin. "But Olmert has revealed them: the division of Jerusalem, an additional disengagement in Judea and Samaria, and totally ignoring the Palestinian side.

"What is there for the Likud to do in the government today? Continued participation in such a government is like saying the Likud doesn't believe it can win in the elections. We must display statesmanlike responsibility, and the Likud is a movement used to statesmanship, but this must be done from outside the government."