(photo credit: AP [file])
President Moshe Katsav said Wednesday that he would invite Kadima chairman Ehud Olmert to Beit Hanassi on Thursday and ask him to form a new government.
Katsav had evidently made the decision earlier, but he had to wait until Supreme Court Justice Dorit Beinisch, the head of the Central Elections Committee (CEC), presented him with the official results of last month's national election.
Olmert was invited to come to Beit Hanassi in the early afternoon because Katsav still had one more meeting to complete his round of consultative talks. He is scheduled to meet with the United Torah Judaism faction on Thursday morning.
Both Katsav and Beinisch praised the election as a model of the democratic process. Beinisch said 8,298 polling stations were used and that although voting procedures might be regarded by some as primitive, the electoral system was actually a sophisticated, well-oiled machine.
Beinisch paid tribute to the many individuals involved in the elections, including the members of the IDF and Israel Police. However, she said she hoped there would be no need to call upon them for another four years.
She said that although she had participated in several elections and had represented the CEC in court when she was state attorney, she had discovered there were some things about Israeli elections that she did not know. "It's like everything else," she said. "It always looks different from the other side."
"Democracy in Israel is something that should not be taken for granted," said Katsav. He cited security concerns, economic problems, a huge immigration from nondemocratic countries, social issues and the assassination of a prime minister as problems that could destabilize democracy.
He said he was proud that Israel had been able to overcome these hazards and that democracy in Israeli was strong and stable.
Katsav said the elections for the 17th Knesset were among the quietest and most efficiently run he remembered.
He said he regretted that so many citizens refrained from exercising their democratic right to be part of the decision-making process and vote.
Katsav asked all the parties elected to the 17th Knesset to put their differences aside and to focus on what they had in common, for the well-being of the nation.
The outgoing Knesset had not set a good example for the public, he said, alluding to charges filed against several MKs. Katsav, who served as an MK for 24 years, said this "endangered democracy." The president said, however, that there were also "excellent MKs" whose integrity was beyond reproach.
Asked her opinion on the overall performance of the outgoing Knesset, and whether MK's parliamentary immunity should be lifted, Beinisch said: "Judges don't grade anyone, including MKs." All she could hope for, she said, was that the next Knesset would maintain the highest standards.