VIDEO - With a majority of 65 Knesset members against 49, and four absent, the plenum approved Israel’s 31st government with 25 ministers.
Olmert speaks (Video: Courtesy of Knesset Channel)
MK Marina Solodkin, number six on the Kadima list, was absent from the meeting in protest of the fact that she did not get a cabinet appointment. Majalli Whbee, who had threatened to abstain for the same reason, attended the meeting and ended up voting to approve the government.
Immediately following the vote, the new ministers were called to the podium to swear their allegiance. The first was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who tried to sign the declaration of allegiance, but three pens failed him until finally, on the fourth try, he succeeded in penning his signature.
Olmert: Most restrained coalition agreements
Opening the meeting, Olmert delivered a speech officially presenting the cabinet and Basic Principles and requesting the Knesset plenum to approve the ministerial appointments.
“We contended in a long election process, maybe too long,” Olmert addressed the plenum. “No one in politics likes the process of assembling the cabinet."
Ministers with President Katsav (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"I participated in establishing many governments in the more than 30 years that I have been in this house. I don’t remember a single time when there wasn’t criticism and fierce words on the waste and on deputy ministers. This is nothing new,” Olmert defended against criticisms of the coalition negotiation process and proposed cabinet.
Ministers sworn in (Video: Courtesy of Knesset Channel)
“I think this government has fewer positions than any government in the past 10 years. It has 25 posts alone, and not 25 plus 10 or 15 deputy ministers. These are the most restrained coalition agreements in decades. All the financial analysts that reviewed the agreements concur that they are the most restrained that have been signed in Israel for many years. This is totally clear,” Olmert said.
“This was a maybe unprecedented effort. We didn’t try to blur what the government’s central agenda would be to the nation. On the eve of elections and immediately after, we put on the public agenda a drastic and clear political processes, that can’t be misconstrued or evaded. The whole government will act towards the obligations I have communicated. In the social arena as well. It cannot be ignored that in our successful country with a blossoming economy, there is a large demographic suffering severe financial problems. We will deal with these problems," he added.
The new government includes ministers from Kadima, Labor, Shas and the Pensioners party. As of now, United Torah Judaism and Israel Our Home will take up the opposition benches. Olmert expressed hope earlier Thursday that UTJ and Meretz would join the coalition in the future.