The first weekly Israeli cabinet meeting has taken place under caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with an attempt to stress that government business as usual goes on, even without Ariel Sharon.
Amid fears that a political vacuum could open up, ministers are rallying around, keen to avoid any damaging political splits.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said:
“We need to do everything we can in order to stabilise the situation and I have said as deputy prime minister and on behalf of all ministers of my party, the Likud, that we will give all the support that is needed to Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.”
Security issues and deciding the country’s budget were top of the agenda for the meeting.
Overshadowing everything however was the presence of an empty chair next to Olmert – a constant reminder that the most dominant force in Israeli politics was not present.