Kadima feels it is winning the Winograd headlines, but it's still losing in the plenum

By
February 1, 2008 00:37
3 minute read.

Legislators who visited the Knesset to thumb through the Winograd Report on their day off were met with disappointment Thursday, as copies of the lengthy report took hours to print and circulate throughout the building. They didn't think to print enough copies for the MKs, explained Ilan Ostfeld, spokesman for Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik. "They made copies for everyone, foreign press, local press, but didn't think to make sure the report reached lawmakers. Dalia Itzik had to call last night and order the Knesset secretariat to do whatever it takes, even if it meant copying and printing the report themselves, to make sure every MK had access to the report over the weekend," said Ostfeld. With the secretariat working overtime, copies of the report did indeed reach MKs by midday Thursday, giving them four days to peruse the 600-page report before the plenum is set to debate it next Monday. Some, however, have already declared the reading material superfluous. "We all know what the report has to say, and we have known for some months - since the interim report came out - that [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert should go home," said MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz). "The report has a restrained tone that is fooling some people into restraining their own calls for Olmert's dismissal." Those who were hoping that the report would give them additional ammunition in their battle for Olmert's resignation were disappointed by the Winograd Report. The statements released by the Likud, NU-NRP and Meretz on the night of the report's release Wednesday made no mention of the Winograd Committee's findings. "The party is formulating a new strategy now. We had all thought that the report would be the final straw to break Olmert's coalition. But it appears to have done the unthinkable and bolstered him!" said one senior Likud member. "There are a number of reasons Olmert should go home, but we put all our eggs in the Winograd basket and now we need to correct that error." Kadima MKs, meanwhile, felt vindicated by the report, which they said finally provides them with rebuttals to the many accusations hurled at the government for its handling of the Second Lebanon War. "We have felt a bit like lame ducks but now we can begin firing back," said MK Shai Hermesh. While the coalition's political future may appear rosy for the first time in months, its parliamentary record continued its downward spiral. Hours before the Winograd Report was released, the coalition sustained two major defeats in the plenum when Likud MKs passed two tax-related bills over the government's objections. The two bills are only the most recent plenum successes for the opposition, which has dominated the legislative process despite the coalition's majority. "What use is having a coalition if you can't control the plenum. People forget that the main job of an MK is to pass laws," said Avigdor Yitzhaki (Kadima), who announced his resignation from the Knesset Thursday. Yitzhaki, who took his former job as coalition whip seriously and was often seen dragging MKs out of the cafeteria for key votes, criticized the government's lackluster approach to legislation when he stepped down from his position in May 2007. Since then he has emerged as one of Olmert's most outspoken critics, resigning Thursday in the wake of the final Winograd Report. During next week's special plenum session, MKs will be able to confront Olmert and ask him to respond to various parts of the report. A symbolic vote will then be conducted, as MKs either "approve" or "disapprove" of the prime minister. Though the vote is not binding, coalition MKs are already beginning to apply pressure to their party colleagues to attend the session. "If you attend one day of the Knesset, come on Monday," said one MK. "We can't keep winning in the headlines and losing in the plenum."


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