Olmert and Livni, saying goodbye
Photo: AFP
Olmert and Barak in happier times
Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO
Olmert to Netanyahu: Maintain continuity
Kadima-led government's last cabinet meeting held in lighter atmosphere, as outgoing prime minister jokes around, wishes successor Benjamin Netanyahu to fulfill State's dream for peace by continuing his outlined path. Olmert also cancels Defense Minister Barak's trip to Paris

Speaking at his government's last cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wished his successor, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu fulfill the dream of peace.


Olmert hinted that the path to peace outlined by his government should be continued: "I hope the new government continues to work on the same central and important issues that this government dealt with through action and faith in government continuity."


This statement came following concerns that a government led by the Likud chairman may not move forward with the principles outlined in the Annapolis talks that Olmert persisted with.


The prime minister seemed laid back and particularly smiley, and at the start of the meeting, that opened late, Olmert joked with the ministers, and also took the opportunity to convey his best wishes to Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel, who celebrated his birthday Saturday night.

Outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also wished Yehezkel well, and with a broad smile said, "To 120 years and 120 Knesset seats for Kadima."


"This is the 31st cabinet's last meeting, the 146th meeting that we hold during its tenure. We expect the new government to be presented by the prime minister-designate during the week," said Olmert.


"I have no doubt," the PM added, "that the new government will do everything to realize the State of Israel's dream to live in peace, security, quality of life, in happiness and satisfaction. A dream that Israeli governments along the way have worked to fulfill."


The outgoing prime minister thanked the thousands of government employees, that he said do very dedicated work, and then personally addressed the prime minister-designate, saying, "I can say one thing to Benjamin Netanyahu – when I was elected and sworn into Knesset he told me this was a difficult job.


"I know that now. To his fortune, he knows this from his first time in this position. I hope he leads the government to achievements and the State to the fulfillment of all of our dreams."


Barak aides: Olmert vengeful

Meanwhile, the prime minister decided not to approve Defense Minister Ehud Barak's upcoming trip to Paris, after the latter's office already booked two suites at the French capital's InterContinental Hotel for thousands of euros.


The defense minister asked the government secretariat last week to hold an official discussion on his request to travel to Paris on April 1 for five days, accompanied by his wife Nili Priell. The trip's goal was to attend an event of the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel's Soldiers, and meet with senior French officials.


Barak was slated to meet with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and with another official. The French Embassy has yet to receive a request to cancel the hotel reservation.


According to the rules, the government discusses ministers' requests to go abroad and approves them – for the protocol. Such requests are usually approved instantly.


But this time the prime minister raised an eyebrow in wonder. "Why should the defense minister go?" he asked. "The government cannot approve this trip, it doesn't look good, particularly when a new government will be sworn in within two days. And anyway, what diplomatic talks does Barak want to have, with whom, and which policy is he representing: The outgoing government's or the incoming one's?"


In addition, officials at the Prime Minister's Office could not understand why the defense minister would have to go to the romantic city for five days and stay there for an entire weekend, when all offices are closed.


Therefore, the Prime Minister's Office decided not to approve the request and to remove it from the cabinet meeting's agenda.


An official at Barak's office said in response, "The defense minister was indeed scheduled to go to Paris. His trip has been postponed due to the swearing in of the government and other constraint. The request was pulled several days ago."


However, an inquiry at the Prime Minister's Office revealed that the request was not pulled and that it was still on the government secretariat's table shortly before the cabinet meeting began.


A source close to Barak said that "one must look at the prime minister's conduct and realize who we're dealing with. Olmert is a vengeful person, and his conduct proves it."


Attila Somfalvi contribute to this report


פרסום ראשון: 03.29.09, 11:20
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