Knesset legal aide Nurit Elstein yesterday rejected the Likud party's petition against advancing the end of the Knesset's winter session from April 9 to April 2.

Elstein dismissed the Likud's claims that the protocol required the motion be initiated by the Knesset speaker and approved by the House Committee, saying that a motion raised by the House Committee and then submitted to the speaker for approval was also satisfactory.

The Likud complained that Elstein's decision exempted Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik of Kadima from initiating the motion herself, a move that would allegedly prove the government's disinterest in prolonging the session because of parliamentary debacles.

"The government does not want to suffer any more defeats," Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar said. "It is mortified on a daily basis."

Officials rejected claims that the coalition had conceded substantial parliamentary defeats, and said the motion was aimed at correcting a mistake by Itzik, who allegedly neglected to take into account the Jewish leap year (in which a month is added to the Jewish lunar calendar).

In addition, the summer session will be shortened by a week and will end July 30, instead of August 6.

House Committee Chair David Tal said: "The opposition's claims are populist. The session is being shortened to correct a mistake."

MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism and MK Yakov Margi of Shas submitted a joint request to shorten the session in order to allow observant Jewish Knesset employees time to prepare for Passover. In addition, Margi argued the session should last as long as it did last year.