Knesset to take 2 more weeks off

The Knesset extended its annual summer and winter recesses on Tuesday, allowing MKs two additional plenum-free weeks each year. The legislature will now start its winter recess on April 6, rather than on April 13, and it will begin its summer recess on August 3, rather than on the 10th, according to a decision reached by the Knesset House Committee on Tuesday. While Knesset committees meet year-round, the plenum only meets for seven months. MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) opened the discussion regarding the April 6 recess date by arguing that the original date left too little time for lawmakers to prepare for Passover, which begins on the evening of April 19 this year. Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik still needs to authorize the new dates, which were proposed by a number of Labor and Kadima legislators. Opposition members accused the coalition of trying to shorten the Knesset's work time time as a form of "damage control." "They have lost control of the plenum, so they want to make sure that we spend as little time there as possible," said MK Yisrael Katz (Likud). The coalition has suffered a number of embarrassing defeats in the plenum recently, including regarding several opposition-sponsored bills to provide financial assistance to periphery communities, and rehabilitation funds to front-line communities. The costly bills would normally be initiated by a coalition MK, since they would need the support of the Finance Ministry to get funding. "The coalition has lost its way in the plenum, and it is letting the opposition get the real work done," said Kadima dissident MK Marina Solodkin, who openly opposes Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.