Reporters Notebook: Dreaming of Knesset vacation

MKs in jeans talk about flying to China in an anticlimactic follow up to Kadima split rumors.

IAF planes over Knesset in J'lem, Independence Day 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
IAF planes over Knesset in J'lem, Independence Day 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
If the last day of the Knesset’s summer session could be described in one word, it would be asak.
Asak is a slang term wellknown to those who served in the IDF. It is an acronym for “the atmosphere at the end of the course.”
Just picture the last week of school: No one is doing homework anymore; everyone is talking about what trips they have planned; and it is rare to see someone making a real effort. That was most of the Knesset on Wednesday.
The MK cafeteria, where ministers and party leaders often hold court on Wednesdays with reporters hungry to hear the latest gossip – whether it is on or off the record – was a ghost town.
One could almost hear the rustling of tumbleweeds.
Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov watched and chuckled at his spokesman scolding a reporter (of a different publication, of course) who did not cover his trip to Bulgaria this week. Security told a couple of tourists they cannot enter. A few Kadima MKs tucked into their lunches at separate tables, perhaps to avoid being suspected of planning yet another rebellion.
MKs in the cafeteria approached Minister-without- Portfolio Yossi Peled (Likud), who was admittedly unsure whether this would be his last day in the Knesset before his long-planned retirement, but who looked glum, regardless.
Several MKs did not hide the fact that they’re ready for vacation, showing up in jeans. The MKs include some who are often seen in high heels or suits, as well as MK Dov Henin (Hadash), who always sports denim.
As far as real parliamentary work is concerned – not politics, but passing laws – the last day of a session is a busy one. This Wednesday, for example, there were 34 bills on the agenda, a number that only rose as the day went on. Faction managers geared up for a 12-hour-ormore day, providing their MKs with lists of the party’s position on each bill.
Faction managers aside, though, the atmosphere in the Knesset was one of disappointment, anticlimax and a readiness to start the nearly three-month recess.
Disappointment (of nonharedi MKs, at least), because the promise of a replacement for the “Tal Law” remains unfulfilled one week before the law, which allows haredim to indefinitely postpone enlistment, is officially canceled.
Yet, equality in the burden, which dominated discourse in the Knesset this session, was not on the agenda on Wednesday.
Anticlimax, because after an attempt to split Kadima from the Right failed, persistent rumors that MKs would break off from the Left did not come to fruition, either.
Instead, all reporters wanted to know was which Kadima reporters are flying to China on Saturday night.
A Kadima mission to China has been in the works since the days that Tzipi Livni was foreign minister. Despite all of the turmoil, and the fact that rumors of her possible departure from the party were in the news as recently as Tuesday, Kadima faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik insisted on leading the Far East tour in order not to insult the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Ten MKs were supposed to go, but Itzik had trouble pulling together a group of six – the minimum the Chinese would accept. Those definitely attending were MKs Ronit Tirosh, Ya’acov Edri, Akram Hasson, Yulia Shamolov-Berkovich and, of course, Itzik.
When asked how she could represent Kadima when, only yesterday, she said she wants to find a group of seven to break off and called party leader Shaul Mofaz a liar, Shamolov-Berkovich insisted that she only implied Mofaz is a liar. Anyway, with the news that Itzik was unable to round up the minimum number of MKs for the trip, Shamolov Berkovich changed her mind in the evening, saying she wasn’t sure if she’s going or not, because her 11-year-old is on vacation from school and they need quality time together.
MK Arieh Bibi (who wore jeans today), one of the four who were challenged by Mofaz for rebelling, took what other Kadima MKs called the classier route, and pulled out of the trip. He said his reason is that he has already been to China.
The inhabitants of the Knesset reporters’ corridor were so lacking in what to write, that six of them came out of their offices to listen to Kadima MK Yoel Hasson – one of the leaders of the leftwing separatist group – say he still isn’t sure whether he’ll go to China or not, because “the timing is bad.”
He is sure, however, that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will lose the next election, even if polls show otherwise.
“Are you breaking off of Kadima with Haim Ramon?” one reporter wanted to know, hoping for some action on this very asak day.
“I can definitely say no to that, because Haim Ramon is not a Knesset member,” Hasson replied, artfully avoiding answering the real question with a grin.