JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s main coalition partner decided on Monday to support a bill to dissolve parliament, which could paralyze the government and force early elections.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party, said he was “very satisfied with the decision” by his faction to vote in favor of the motion scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
Olmert has vowed to stay in office and continue to lead his Kadima party unless indicted in a corruption investigation that has prompted calls for his resignation from political allies and foes.
He has denied wrongdoing in the case, in which a New York-based financier testified in court that he gave $150,000 to the Israeli leader while he held previous public positions.
With Labor supporting the vote to dissolve parliament, Olmert’s coalition is not likely to have enough votes to block the bill. Some smaller factions have yet to announce whether they will vote for the motion.
Subsequent votes needed to approve the bill could be held by the end of parliament’s summer session in late July.
Olmert has threatened to fire Labor cabinet ministers if they back the vote, which would leave Olmert without a legislative majority, which would open the way for an early election and would be likely disrupt Israel’s peace talks with the Palestinians.
Olmert’s lawyers planned to question the U.S. businessman next month. It would up to the attorney-general to decide whether to indict Olmert.
Reporting by Avida Landau; editing by Andrew Dobbie