President Shimon Peres arrived at the Knesset Monday afternoon with the opening of this year's winter session, and informed Speaker Dalia Itzik that efforts by Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni to secure a stable coalition have failed.
Upon handing Itzik the letter, Peres said he could not see a possibility to form a government at this time.
Itzik opened the session by saying she had prepared three speeches for the occasion, and regretfully would have to opt for the one that would also effectively spell the end of what is shaping up to be a very brief Knesset session. The speaker reiterated her call for the formation of a national unity government, saying it was particularly crucial at this juncture in light of the global financial crisis.
Peres, who addressed the plenum after Itzik, said that the public's faith in its leaders has waned. "At this time the Knesset and the political system must examine itself with a critical eye. We must not allow this
unpleasant truth to be hidden. It's never too late to fix things," he said.
Peres warned of using empty campaign slogans in the months to come, and called for in-depth debate on the pressing matters at hand.
"How can we ensure Israel's security in light of the various threats we are faced with? How will we end the Israeli-Arab conflict and bring peace to our people? How will we lead (Israel) to economic prosperity while maintaining social justice? How will we sustain the internal solidarity and fortitude of Israeli society; the rule of law, the inclusion of minorities and just governance? How will we cultivate the younger generation – Israel's future?"
'Israel needs new leadership'
Olmert said during his speech that "the threats on the security of the people of Israel will not wait for political procedures.
"The fear of terror cannot be postponed because some of us are busy with the election process," he said.
Speaking to Gilad Shalit's parents, who were looking on from the plenum's gallery, the outgoing PM accused Hamas of stalling the talks for the kidnapped soldier's release.
"Gilad is still in the hands of his cruel captors in Gaza and not a day goes by in which I do not deal with (Gilad's release)," he said. "I will continue to act quietly, patiently, and resolutely, despite the fact that his captors, who are devoid of humanity, still refuse to release him."
Olmert praised Livni's efforts to assemble a new coalition, and vowed to stay on as prime minister until general elections are held and a new government is established and run the country "with the same caution and responsibility I have exhibited thus far."
Netanyahu said during his speech in honor of the Knesset's winter session that "Israel needs new leadership and a new path."
"Israel is currently standing before three huge challenges: The global financial crisis, a constant regression in the country's achievements, and above all serious security threats from terrorist countries and organizations," he said.
Netanyahu also told the Shalit family their son would not be forgotten. "We won't forget Gilad. He is your son, but he is our soldier," he said.