In attendance or not, what was really important in the rushed gathering in the Knesset yesterday was not what happened but what was missing.
Missing was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Although he was sitting in the hall and listening, he did not give a speech. Defense Minister Amir Peretz was also missing and made do with passing on a message to reporters that he is in the midst of "security-related meetings at the Defense Ministry on Thursdays." There was also no contact - eye contact or verbal - between the prime minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who sat next to him.
Half the MKs were also missing, not bothering to take a break from their parliamentary recess. Perhaps this is why there was no energy in the debate. Deputy Speaker Majalli Wahbee, who ran the session, did ask two Likud MKs (Michael Eitan and Gilad Erdan) to exit the hall, but he also signaled to Eitan that he could actually stay. And what was missing almost entirely in the speech by Vice Premier Shimon Peres was the Winograd report.
In soccer there is often a stage in the game when one team's players pass to each other in their own territory, pass back to their goalkeeper, or send the ball into the stands, all to waste time and avoid giving away any goals. This is precisely what Peres came to do yesterday: waste time. To pass the unpleasant moments of his speech, he read excerpts, not of the critical findings in the Winograd report, but from the New York Times (which was impressed with the Winograd report) and from a report by the Strategic Institute of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram.
So what did he say? He said Israel has "deterrent capabilities," and he also poked fun at opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu. He agreed with Netanyahu that "a leader needs vision" but said that a leader "also needs a majority. The current prime minister has a very serious majority. This is also a talent. I know leaders whose majority slips between their fingers."
Some possible solace: On Monday there will be a debate on the no-confidence motions put forth by Likud and Meretz related to the Winograd report. Perhaps then someone from the government will bother to show up and refer to the report.
Nothing like it. One of the more caustic speeches against the government was made by a candidate for Labor Party leadership, MK Danny Yatom. Yatom is in favor of pulling out of the government, and still Labor is a very important part of the coalition. "The report is so severe that I do not remember anything like it in Israel since its establishment," Yatom said. "In spite of the sadness and pain, I say that the government of Israel failed and it must return the mandate to the people." Yatom also pointed out that "in every other country the government would have resigned, but in Israel the concept of responsibility is known only to a few, and none of them appears to be in the government currently."
Casino Lebanon: Netanyahu: "We must correct the main flaw identified by the report: lack of leadership, lack of accountability, lack of expertise." Meretz chair Zahava Gal-On: "It was really a Casino Lebanon. You gambled on the lives of soldiers and citizens."
It seems that a considerable number of MKs are more afraid of the likelihood that Netanyahu will be prime minister than the possibility that Olmert will stay on, and so Netanyahu suffered nearly as many attacks as Olmert yesterday. For example, MK Ahmed Tibi said of Netanyahu that his current attacks on the government suggest he is suffering "either of amnesia or utter contempt [of the public]" because he backed the government throughout the war.
The Knesset is also to blame: In Kadima they opted to remind the Knesset that they were also to blame. Speaker Dalia Itzik declared: "The vast majority of MKs, and myself, supported going to war."
MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, Knesset Law Committee Chairman: "MKs, opposition and coalition, have you nothing to say that we as a Knesset failed in overseeing the work of the government?"
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