This Summer's Hot Question: Will the Coalition Survive?

Knesset members have been divided in recent days over the question of whether the parliament will wind up replacing the prime minister or scheduling elections during the summer session, beginning today, or whether the coalition will manage to survive the short session.

In that case the summer session will serve merely as a passage to the real thing, come the winter session.

The coalition must be delighted right now that it succeeded last March in passing a House Committee decision to shorten the summer session by a week - it will end July 30 instead of August 6.

The winter session was quiet, and the coalition got through it fairly easily - despite its lasting six months and the release of the Winograd Committee's report on the Second Lebanon War.

By contrast, Labor Party whip Eitan Cabel predicts a summer session characterized by "urban warfare," both because of the new investigations of the prime minister and because the coalition has only 64 seats left after losing three Pensioners.

To make that instability worse, there are quite a few MKs in Kadima in Labor who consider coalition discipline merely a recommendation.

Cabel has called on Kadima MKs to get ready for the premier's replacement, saying he expects them "to come to their senses," but adding he sees no possibility of forming a new government this session.

Meretz chair Haim Oron also thinks "the greatest odds are that [Ehud] Olmert's coalition will survive the summer session."

'Only Mazuz can topple Olmert'

Kadima members are convinced that only one man can put an end to the Olmert government, namely, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, should he decided to file an indictment.

The winter session is a whole other story because it involves passing next year's budget; if they can't do that, there may be no choice but to call elections.

MK Benny Elon of the right-wing National Union believes "there's a whiff of elections in the air" already. "I give it a month at most until Olmert's buddies peck him like an injured rooster," Elon said. He is certain "the coalition's future will be determined this session," and that new elections will be scheduled.

Likud whip Gideon Sa'ar says the coalition has reached the stage where if a single one of its components does not want it to continue, it will collapse.

But Sa'ar is cautious.

It is possible the process will get rolling this session, he says, and it is possible that it will be only in the winter session, "apropos the budget."

Kadima has a unique advantage: It is nearly impossible to topple a centrist prime minister through a no-confidence vote.

The reason is that any no-confidence vote must be accompanied by the name of a candidate for prime minister, and that candidate must win 61 votes. It is very hard to conceive of a situation in which the opposition, comprising right- and left-wing factions, will agree on a candidate.

At any rate, the demise of governments tends to come through bills for disbanding the Knesset.