MKs on Right and Left smell elections in the air

Few members of Knesset willing to consider the possibility that elections were not on the way in the near future.

Knesset 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Knesset 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Even in the hours before Defense Minister Ehud Barak's speech, a carnival-like atmosphere gripped the Knesset as journalists, lobbyists and parliamentarians alike began to wager on the content of Barak's statement. But the question hanging over the festivities - and in fact over the entire Knesset session since its opening last week - is when the elections are coming. Few members of Knesset were willing Wednesday, especially after Barak's statements, to consider the possibility that elections were not on the way in the near future. The pre-election wind-up is palpable in committee meetings. Proponents of bills who are concerned that a new government might be a less hospitable environment to their proposals have spent the last 10 days trying to hurry up the legislative process and squeeze in votes before the Knesset disperses. This past week, committee members even made comments, saved in the protocol, about the need to push key votes forward quickly. In addition, a fresh crop of preliminary readings of social legislation has begin to pop up in recent days, frequently a good way to pad one's credentials before party voters asking during election seasons for an accounting of what each MK has done for them. And both the opposition as well as some members of coalition parties are chomping at the bit to make sure that the option of elections remains the skeleton in the closet casting a shadow over the Knesset proceedings and reminding Kadima's leadership that they are walking a delicate coalition tightrope. In the hours after Barak's press conference, MK Silvan Shalom's (Likud) proposal to dissolve the Knesset, which has been held ready since the opening of the summer session, was joined by a second such proposal, this time submitted by Labor Party MKs Ophir Paz-Pines, Shelly Yacimovich, Eitan Cabel and Danny Yatom. The four emphasized that the proposal had been coordinated with Barak, with Paz-Pines adding that "in the situation that has been created, the prime minister cannot continue in his role. If Kadima does not switch him in the near future and form an alternative government, we'll begin to take the proposal to dissolve the Knesset through its approval stages." Paz-Pines emphasized that he believed that Kadima must act in the eight remaining weeks of the summer session to prevent such an action.