Livni: Kadima Won't Hesitate to Criticize Netanyahu Government

Kadima supports Likud MK Rivlin's candidacy for Knesset speaker; Arab MKs skip vote due to Land Day.

Kadima chairman and outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that Kadima will serve the nation from the opposition. "This is the service we have decided to give. The government that will be formed tomorrow will be large and bloated, with portfolios and ministries divided into fractions and sub-fractions. Tomorrow will also see the rise of a large opposition headed by the largest party," said Livni during a Kadima meeting held in the Knesset.

"We are in the opposition out of our own choice. We could have been part of the phenomenon that we have witnessed, but we chose to follow our own path. We will serve as a responsible opposition where there are significant issues regarding security and economics, but we will not hesitate to criticize the government whenever it does not represent the good of the nation," Livni told Kadima members.

During the meeting Kadima decided to support Likud MK Reuven Rivlin's candidacy for Knesset speaker. Rivlin (Likud), the sole candidate for the post, is expected to be voted in by Knesset on Monday. The Arab MKs said they would boycott the vote because it falls on land day. Knesset Speaker Michael Eitan refused to postpone the vote.

Rivlin is due to be elected Knesset speaker Monday afternoon, but Arab Knesset factions are objecting to the timing of the vote. On Monday the Arab sector commemorates Land Day, marking violent protests in 1976 over government land policies in which six Arabs were killed.

MKs from Arab factions are expected to be absent Monday from the vote, after failing to convince acting speaker Michael Eitan that it should be rescheduled to take place on Tuesday.

Rivlin, the only candidate for speaker in the newly elected Knesset, also served in the post from 2003 to 2006.

Eitan claimed that there was no precedent for delaying a Knesset vote as a result of an event "that is subject to controversy." He also sent a message to the heads of the Arab parliamentary factions, indicating that his decision was made after consultation with Rivlin, outgoing speaker Dalia Itzik and Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein.

Eitan explained that if the requested delay became a practice, "the work schedule of the Knesset would be dragged out, according to the political whim of any group of members seeking a chance to protest by stopping the work of parliament."

Said MK Hanna Swaid, head of the predominantly Arab Hadash faction in the Knesset: "We didn't seek to stop the functioning of the Knesset or to change its agenda. We simply sought to delay the important act (of electing a speaker) by one day."