Olmert tells off Knesset in 60 seconds

After being forced to speak, PM slams opposition members, calling session amorphous, pointless.

olmert knesset 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
olmert knesset 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Opposition MKs expecting to see Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the hot seat Wednesday were forced to close the Knesset's winter session unsated after the prime minister took the podium at the Knesset and dedicated under a minute to responding to allegations that his government had no direction. Olmert was called to the Knesset after 40 MKs signed a request to hold a discussion in the plenum entitled "A Government without a Path and without a Strategy that Rules Solely for the Purpose of Survival." Olmert, for the purposes of protocol, opened his speech by responding that the government operated in three directions - security, diplomacy and social - but did not elaborate on any of them. He then redirected his fire to the MKs who had effectively dragged him unwillingly onto the Knesset floor. "The role of the opposition everywhere in the world is to constitute an alternative to the ruling party and the government. I understand this well," he said. "But nevertheless, I have been in this building a long time, and I have yet to hear and see such an amorphic discussion, lacking in content, manner and purpose, as this one, which, to my sadness, has no other goal than to continue to harm the Knesset and its status. Thank you, madam [chairwoman]." Opposition chairman Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud), in contrast, responded with a lengthy speech attacking Olmert and his coalition. He was frequently interrupted by shouting, much of it initiated by National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor). In a vote immediately following Netanyahu's speech, 56 MKs voted in favor of Olmert's mini-declaration, yelling out "pro" as they voted, while 40 MKs voted against it. "The prime minister's brief speech ransacks the Knesset and makes a joke out of public debate in Israel," said Likud MK Yuli Edelstein shortly after the vote. "Olmert is showing disregard for the public due to an intoxication with the power of the coalition, which is based upon illegal perks and pay-offs to MKs who are members of the coalition." Before Olmert's speech, MKs dedicated over an hour's worth of speeches to attacking the government and its policies. Those taking the stand ranged from Zehava Gal-On (Meretz), who decried the actions of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, to Effi Eitam (NU/NRP), who attacked the government for "failing to supply the citizens with their most basic needs." MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) rose to Olmert's defense just before the prime minister took the podium, in a lengthy 14-minute speech delineating Kadima's and the coalition's accomplishments - a speech that could largely be seen as the one Olmert was expected to have delivered.