All in Favor / Ammunition for the Coalition

Meretz faction chair Zehava Galon seemed to have best expressed the confusion of the opposition yesterday when she called on the public "not to let the restrained tone of Judge Winograd confuse us from the necessary conclusion: Olmert must go home."

But the opposition certainly was confused, by the restrained tone, as well as the restrained content. MK Zvi Hendel (National Union-National Religious Party) announced that, "Olmert cannot hide behind the vague formulations of the committee." Meretz head Yossi Beilin said, "Meretz will continue to demand an end to Olmert's tenure," as someone who understands, perhaps, that this is not obvious.

The opposition is hanging all its hopes on Defense Minister Ehud Barak. MK Silvan Shalom (Likud), for example, mentioned in his response to the Winograd Report only one individual - Barak - calling on him to go for early elections.

In recent months, the coalition was fairly helpless against the ammunition generously supplied to the opposition by the interim Winograd report; for example, in the public reading of that report Tuesday by opposition lawmakers in the Knesset plenum.

Yesterday the committee supplied plenty of ammunition to the coalition, with phrases like "political achievements," and "wisdom after the fact." Above all floats the claim that the prime minister has been a victim of character assassination. The bereaved families ended up focusing on the last 60 hours of the Second Lebanon War, and even Likud conceded yesterday that, "Olmert could not have hoped to come out better over the 60 hours."

The next test of the opposition (according to the weekend polls) will be the concluding vote following the Knesset debate on the report, which the opposition is pushing to hold next week at the latest. True, it is a symbolic debate, but it can be argued that it is when lawmakers are freed of the bonds of a no-confidence vote that express their real confidence or lack thereof.

Still, if the coalition looks in the coming months the way it appeared yesterday in the plenum, its situation is not especially good. It was defeated on two bills and had to change its stance on others so as not to lose again. According to Likud faction chair MK Gideon Sa'ar, "The Olmert coalition is closer than ever to its end." Kadima spokesman Shmuel Dahan tried to comfort himself by saying that it was because of the snow.