Bar-On: The Kadima-led opposition proved its determination and its impressive perseverance.
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu succeeded in passing his proposal to change the way state budgets are passed, but he and his Likud colleagues suffered a very painful victory that only came after Kadima filibustered in the Knesset plenum for 21 hours.
Kadima MKs requested amendment after amendment and delivered long-winded speeches about soccer and the upcoming Pessah holiday in deliberations that started on Monday at 11 a.m. and did not finish until Tuesday at 11.
The new law calls for approving state budgets every two years instead of annually and extends the deadline for passing the 2009 budget from mid-May until July. The bill passed its final reading on Tuesday morning, with 63 MKs in favor and 27 opposed.
After waking up in the afternoon after the long night, opposition MKs boasted about the strange places they had slept and the odd topics of their speeches.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon spoke from the Knesset rostrum about his diet, Kadima MK Nachman Shai updated the plenum on soccer scores and Kadima's Yohanan Plessner sang a song he wrote about Netanyahu to the tune of the Pessah song "Dayeinu."
But the highlight of the evening for the MKs was United Arab List-Ta'al faction chairman Ahmed Tibi's speech about Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.
Tibi said he was surprised to see Ben-Eliezer come back to the plenum in the middle of the night even though he was paired off with MK Ibrahim Sarsour from UAL-Ta'al, in an agreement that both the coalition and the opposition MK would miss the vote.
"Fuad went home, put on a striped pajama and went to bed," Tibi said.
"After an hour, the phone rang, and it was Netanyahu calling to tell him: 'Fuad, wake up and hurry back to the plenum.' Fuad quickly took off his striped pajamas and came back here as fast as he could. Here he is."
Senior ministers said they slept under coffee tables in the plenum.
Habayit Hayehudi MK Zevulun Orlev took pictures of lawmakers sleeping in their chairs and all over the Knesset chambers.
After the vote ended, former finance minister Ronnie Bar-On of Kadima released a statement declaring Kadima the victor of the night even though it had lost a vote it never had a chance of winning. Kadima officials said the effort proved their party would survive in the opposition and that the Likud would not have an easy time governing.
"The Kadima-led opposition proved its determination and its impressive perseverance in its parliamentary struggle against the Likud," Bar-On said.
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