Knesset Donnybrook Erupts Over Deal to Save Government

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert slamed the opposition during his speech at the Knesset yesterday, saying that "whatever negotiations we hold you will call it 'surrender,' because you do not want peace."

In a special session dubbed by the opposition as "the government has reached its end," acting coalition chairman Yoel Hasson charged, "It is not the end of the government. It is the end of your hope. You are simply f-r-u-s-t-r-a-t-e-d. You are despondent.

"[Opposition head Benjamin] Netanyahu is the man of 'nearly,' the winner in the surveys, the 'sort of' prime minister," Hasson goaded his colleagues in the opposition.

But the show was stolen in a debate between Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and Gideon Sa'ar, Likud faction head.

The two are among the few who, on a normal day, run the affairs of the Knesset. The day-to-day discourse between the two is what preserves the "official" image of the parliament from deteriorating to chaos.

"This is a coalition of cowards, and the agreement of last night is an agreement of cowards," Sa'ar declared in his speech, describing the accord between coalition partners Kadima and Labor that nullified Labor's support for the dissolution of parliament.

"You are scared to death of elections," Sa'ar said. "Laborites - once more you have proven to be wimps. Biggest wimps of all."

Itzik demanded that Sa'ar take it back, and agree to remove the statement from the transcript.

He refused to be censored. Itzik ordered his removal from the podium. The Likud claimed, "This was an ugly example of gagging."