Tuesday, February 05, 2008

MKs, Protest Groups Gather in Knesset, Call on Olmert to Resign

Ezra HaLevi, the Knesset

Knesset Members from all across the political spectrum and the heads of various non-parliamentary and grassroots protest groups gathered at the Knesset Monday ahead of the parliamentary discussion of the Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War. Representatives of the bereaved parents, the Movement for Quality Government, IDF Reservists and Tafnit Party Chairman Uzi Dayan, who has offered the protesting reservists funding and assistance, gathered in the Knesset's Circular Room in the parliament's new wing. The meeting was called by National Religious Party MK Zevulun Orlev and joined by Likud Faction Chairman Gideon Sa'ar, Likud MK Yisrael Katz, National Union MK Aryeh Eldad, Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On and even MK Marina Solodkin, from Olmert's own Kadima Party and Labor MKs Danny Yatom and Ophir Pines-Paz of his largest coalition partner.

The gathering was the second meeting of the Parliamentary Lobby for the adoption of the Winograd Committee's recommendations.

The lobby's chairman, MK Orlev, said that the goal remains to remove Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from power, the first step of which is the discussion following the meeting, which MKs have required Olmert to attend. "There are things we will say and things we won't say," explained MK Orlev. "It is not clear at this point whether or not we have a majority to vote no-confidence in the Prime Minister and his government."

"They are not allowing the IDF Reservists to sit in the guests' balcony, to my great regret," Orlev said. "Those who are willing to send them to battle, including the Prime Minister, are not willing to look them in the eyes when they address the parliament regarding the Winograd Report."

"Our protest has not ended just because the prime minister's defense minister has saved him at this point," said Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On. "And though a campaign of delegitimization has begun against those calling for his resignation, the prime minister must know that the protests will only grow stronger."

MK Avigdor Yitzchaki, who declared his intention to resign from the Knesset if the government does not announce new elections following the publication of the Winograd report, said the press and other supporters of the prime minister "are taking the one small aspect of this entire damning report, where it was decided that the prime minister's actions were actually justified, and pretending that it eliminates the failures of the entire war [Yitzchaki was referring to the report's vindication of the decision to launch a ground offensive in the final hours before a ceasefire -ed.]. I have news for you. I have a broken clock at home and it is also correct twice a day."

MK Orlev called upon Yitzchaki to delay his resignation until after Olmert is removed from power, adding that Yitzchaki is "one of the most quality and trustworthy Knesset Members" and saying that his resignation would be a victory for those seeking to keep Olmert in power as his Kadima seat will be granted to the next on the party's list, presumably a supporter of the prime minister.

"I have to say, it is too difficult for me to sit beside people who really do not care about the leadership, the ethics, the very existence of this country," said Yitzchaki of his Kadima Party colleagues. "I look forward to returning to this building, but under worthy leadership."

Tafnit Party leader Uzi Dayan, who failed to enter the Knesset but has adopted the causes of Holocaust survivors, IDF reservists and others in the interim, addressed PM Olmert himself. "You may have survived this round and managed to survive the Winograd report, but this nation will demand true leadership," Dayan told those gathered. "Specifically today, when there was a bitter terror attack in Dimona, the nation knows that there is no security with a government that lacks the faith and trust of the governed.".

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