Third Cabinet minister may resign

jerusalem (jps) | National Religious Party’s remaining minister, Zevulun Orlev, reportedly will quit Sharon’s government by Monday, June 14. The news, reported by Army Radio, contradicts Orlev’s recent comments saying his party should not desert the government.

His resignation would follow those of Deputy Minister Yitzhak Levy and Construction and Housing Minister Effi Eitam, both of whom stepped down Tuesday, June 8, to protest the Cabinet’s decision to evacuate the Gaza Strip. As a result of their resignations, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lost his majority in the 120-member Knesset, dropping to a 59-vote minority. But Knesset members Michael Nudelman (National Union) and David Tal (Am Ehad), are prepared to support Sharon if a no-confidence vote is held.

Eitam, a former brigadier general, and Levy said they now consider themselves to be in the opposition and will vote against Sharon on any no-confidence motion. The two have not resigned from the party and remain in the Knesset.

“We have to remove this coalition and this prime minister from the government. It is possible to do so if many forces unite to join us,” Eitam said, explaining that he was calling on the Likud, NRP, and national Zionist voters, both religious and secular, to help him.

With only a 59-member minority government, Sharon now will have to piece together different factions to pass legislation on diplomatic, civil and economic issues. Since Labor approves his plans for Gaza but opposes his financial platform, budget-related initiatives will be Sharon’s most difficult hurdles.

Sharon’s coalition actually began to crumble last week after two National Union ministers were fired for not supporting the Gaza disengagement plan.