Barak, Too, Comes in for Harsh Criticism

Politicians from across the spectrum were quick to criticize Defense Minister Ehud Barak's speech yesterday, in which he called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to leave his post.

Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said an "elections dynamic" is starting to develop in the Knesset, and "I do not see a chance to establish a new government from within the Knesset." According to Yishai, Shas is the only party which does not need to fear elections.

The head of the Likud faction, MK Gideon Saar, said "Barak's news conference was a copy of [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni's unimpressive news conference after the Winograd [Committee report]. It is impossible to reconcile the understanding that Olmert is not fit to be prime minister, and between [Barak's] remaining in the cabinet," said Saar.

The Meretz faction called Barka's words "lip service written on ice without any schedule or ultimatum with them."

MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) disputed that view, saying "Barak has moved in the right direction, but too little and too slowly, and without a schedule."

On the other side, MK Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party) said that he very much hopes "that Barak understands that the public will not put up with another round of zigzags and doublespeak from him."

Likud filed a no-confidence motion yesterday, saying it is clear the government has reached its end, and called on the coalition partners to stop with political maneuvering and agree to a date for early elections.

The National Union-National Religious Party filed its own no-confidence motion based on Tuesday's testimony by Morris Talansky.

The head of the National Religious Party, Zevulun Orlev, accused Barak of making empty promises. "Instead of making a decisive political act that would bring about the end of Olmert's tenure and move up the elections, Barak has chosen to make an amorphous statement without any schedule."

Barak did have some support from within his own party, as MK Collette Avital (Labor) described his words as "sharp and clear." Avital said it was up to Kadima to choose its path as soon as possible.

Two Kadima MKs, Amira Dotan and Zeev Elkin, joined the calls for Olmert's resignation. Dotan wrote Olmert a letter saying there is crisis of faith in him, and he should find a way to allow Kadima to choose new leadership.