Prime Minister Rejects Proposed Change to System of Government

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that he did not support changing Israel's system of government from a parliamentary to a presidential one, despite having just persuaded the cabinet to back a bill by Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman that calls for doing precisely that.

Lieberman had conditioned his party's entry into the government on coalition support for the bill.

Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv organized by the Israel Management Center, Olmert said that he also opposed another element of the Lieberman bill - raising the electoral threshold to 10 percent.

"We need a realistic electoral threshold, one that will not cause relevant sectors of Israeli society to be cut off from representative parliamentary life," the prime minister said.

Olmert said his government did intend to try to enact a constitution and change the system of government in some way that would ensure every government a full four-year term. He added, however, that he did not think that there was a parliamentary majority for switching to a presidential regime.

On the diplomatic front, Olmert insisted that "Yisrael Beiteinu's entry into the government will not change its diplomatic conduct. We will create a process that will lead to the opening of negotiations with a Palestinian player who has the necessary authority for this. Even if Yisrael Beiteinu enters this government, nothing in its guidelines will change."