For several hours Thursday, amid the chaos left by president Moshe Katsav's early resignation, the fact that his successor has not yet been sworn in, and with the acting president heading overseas, the presidential staff were asking each other who the boss was.
It turned out to be Kadima Knesset member Majalie Whbee, a fact which did not entirely put minds at rest. Deputy Knesset Speaker Whbee, after all, had walked out of the Knesset plenum in a huff Wednesday, after being denied a cabinet post in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's reshuffle.
But an aide to Whbee swiftly quashed rumors that the disappointed would-be minister would behave unpredictably or irresponsibly while filling in at Beit Hanassi, where he will preside at various ceremonies in the next few days.
"He is planning on fulfilling all his duties with respect and dignity," said the aide, also firmly rejecting suggestions that Whbee was planning on taking the drastic move of issuing controversial pardons, saying that it was "highly unlikely" that an important pardon would reach Whbee's desk in the next week; even if it did, he would not presume to make rash decisions in Itzik's absence. "He is very disappointed with the government, but he will not do anything surprising," said the aide.
Whbee finds himself in the surprising position of temporary president because Katsav has gone, President-elect Shimon Peres will be sworn in only on July 15, and Acting President and Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik left Thursday for a week-long trip to London.
For several months, Whbee had been promised a position as a minister-without-portfolio or deputy minister in the next cabinet shakeup. On Wednesday, however, four Kadima lawmakers were reshuffled onto the cabinet but Whbee was not among them and no deputy ministers were appointed. Associates close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that he was planning on presenting his choices for four to five deputy ministers within the next few weeks.
"There is certainly distrust that Olmert will not go through on his promise and appoint Whbee, and others, as deputy ministers," said the aide. "In that case there will be serious problems."
When Whbee walked out of the plenum Wednesday afternoon, he left Itzik with no choice but to oversee the plenum floor herself. Because Itzik was filling in as president, she was not supposed to oversee lengthy plenum discussions unless absolutely necessary.