The Riddle That Is Yvet

The most tangible evidence as to the political intentions of the eternal on-the-verge-of-resigning Minister Avigdor (Yvet) Lieberman was made apparent yesterday by the chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, Yisrael Beiteinu's Stas Misezhnikov. MKs who talked with the young chairman, who is close to Lieberman, got the sense that the party head is getting ready to pack and go. The MKs were a lot more convinced by Misezhnikov's sadness than Lieberman's bellicose statements.

It seems that the prime minister has also come to terms, psychologically, with the split from his good friend and his loyal partner, who joined his government three months after the war. But there are those who believe that Olmert is choosing to sacrifice Lieberman in order to keep Ehud Barak and Labor interested after the Winograd Committee's report.

"You are rushing toward the core issues in order to give the impression of a diplomatic process," MK Silvan Shalom of Likud told Olmert at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "You are pushing Lieberman out, which will empower Fouad [Benjamin Ben-Eliezer], [Shalom] Simhon, and [Isaac] Herzog to pressure Ehud Barak to stay in the government, arguing that the [peace] process is real, and furthermore, this will enable Meretz to vote against the dispersal of the Knesset."

Olmert heard the political analysis, smiled, but did not respond.

During his meeting today with Lieberman, Olmert will hear the decision from the horse's mouth. Lieberman is so unpredictable that no one in the Knesset yesterday was willing to rush to predictions about how he would behave. But all the signs are hinting at an upcoming departure from the coalition. And just like no one understood why Lieberman joined the coalition in the first place, so no one is able to penetrate the depths of his motives for leaving it.

Is Lieberman smelling Olmert's fall following Winograd and wants to jump a sinking ship before it takes him down with it? Have the conditions for a deal between Labor and Likud matured, which will allow them to run to the elections together, on one ballot?

Negotiations between Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu, brokered by MK Rubi Rivlin, has been ongoing for a long time. Lieberman's minimum price is for three of his own MKs for every 10 on the ballot, but Netanyahu won't hear of it. These are the sort of things that are decided at the last possible moment.