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(photo credit: GPO)
Knesset members from across the political spectrum demonstrated rare support for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday, following a press conference at which he announced that he had been diagnosed with early signs of prostrate cancer.
Opposition MKs joined coalition members in surrounding the prime minister upon his entrance to the plenum. Many congratulated Olmert on his decision to inform the public of his health condition, from which all wished him a speedy recovery.
"I am unable to return the calls of all those who telephoned me. It is heartwarming and I thank everyone," said Olmert, who had received phone calls from leaders ranging from Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Despite the support, some MKs could not help but offer their own diagnosis, and suggest that the prime minister take a break from his duties.
"The prime minister has a lot weighing on his mind at the moment, including legal difficulties. Perhaps he should take time off to focus on clearing up his legal problems and improving his health, rather than trying to do it all while still in office," said MK Nissan Slomiansky (NU-NRP). "What we have is a situation similar to that of students in school, where they wish the teacher would go away, but not - God forbid - be ill or die."
Slomiansky's fellow faction members Arye Eldad and Uri Ariel agreed that Olmert should take time off - not for his illness, they said, but for other errors he has made in office.
MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) was more specific, saying that the prime minister's decisions during the Second Lebanon War, and allegations that he was involved in corrupt business dealings, should be enough reason for him to step down.
The calls for Olmert's resignation were echoed in the four no-confidence motions that were filed against him in the Knesset Monday. While all four were filed before Olmert's illness was made known, MKs did not spare criticism of the government's handling of the ongoing teachers strike and an upcoming US-sponsored peace parley.
Many MKs were also quick to note that under new legislation introduced following former prime minister Ariel Sharon's debilitating strokes, the prime minister would be obligated to inform the Knesset of any critical health issues he might face.
The private member's bill has not yet passed into law.