olmert smiles 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Members of Knesset pressed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a Knesset special session on Tuesday to explain why he had thus far failed to appoint a welfare minister.
Addressing the assembled MKs, Olmert said he had initially kept the welfare minister portfolio open for members of United Torah Judaism (UTJ), whom he had hoped to add to the coalition. However, negotiations with UTJ had run into some snags, and the position remained unfilled.
Meretz, Likud, and Arab MKs led the debate, which 40 MKs had signed a petition for Olmert to attend. However, less than a quarter of the Knesset members were present at the discussion - a fact which drew harsh criticism from the prime minister.
Once a month, Knesset members are permitted to summon the prime minister to a special Knesset session on the subject of their choice, and the prime minister is bound by law to attend. In order to do so, at least 40 MKs must authorize the demand.
Despite the session's poor attendance, it was rumored that Kadima MK Ya'acov Edri would be appointed welfare minister.
However, Edri's spokesperson denied any knowledge of such an arrangement, saying that no meeting had been set up between Edri and Olmert to discuss the subject.
Olmert was expected to meet with Defense Minister Amir Peretz following the Knesset session to resolve tensions that have grown between the two over Israel Beiteinu's entry into the coalition.