Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may have effectively tendered his resignation on Wednesday evening, but in the same breath he also made clear his intention to continue pursuing peace negotiations with Syria and the Palestinian Authority up to his very last moments in office.
But while Olmert's decision to step down garnered praise from across the political spectrum, his diplomatic agenda drew the ire of many in the Knesset both from members of his coalition as well as prominent opposition members who say he can no longer claim a mandate.
"The prime minister lacks the public or political legitimacy to continue with the negotiations," Communications Minister Ariel Atias of the Shas party told Ynet.
"From the moment he announced he was stepping down, he is only considered as the caretaker. What legitimacy does he have to reach an agreement with the Palestinians or with Syria that the next government would be bound to?"
Likud MK Silvan Shalom, a former foreign affairs minister, said that Olmert lacked the necessary directive to make concessions on Israel's behalf.
"This is a very serious problem. This could lead to (Olmert) making concessions towards the end of his term just so he will have an achievement to boast," said Shalom.
Fellow Likud member Gideon Saar said it was the responsibility of the cabinet and Olmert's own party to prevent him from staging any dangerous underhanded diplomatic moves.
MK Avigdor Lieberman, a former minister in Olmert's cabinet and chairman of Yisrael Beitenu, also had harsh words for the prime minister's plans.
"It's sounds pathetic. The prime minister's speech was stately, conscientious and solemn. I suggest he refrain from ruining that effect. He doesn't have a majority in the Knesset, he doesn't even have a majority in his own party. He can't lead any process," Lieberman asserted.
Regardless of Olmert's announcement, a fresh round of indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria ended on Wednesday under Turkish mediation. And a fifth round is due next month, a senior source close to the talks told the Reuters news agency. The source described the talks, which had taken place at an undisclosed location in Istanbul, as "positive."