Chaos in Knesset as fragile coalition loses first votes since elections averted

Reduced to single-seat majority, coalition boycotts no-confidence motions; opposition trick shoots down law bill, causing all further votes to be postponed

A scuffle between Knesset members, at a plenum session at the Israeli parliament on November 19, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
A scuffle between Knesset members, at a plenum session at the Israeli parliament on November 19, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition on Monday lost its first several Knesset plenum votes since it was reduced to just 61 members, raising doubts over whether it could survive for long, after early elections were narrowly averted earlier in the day, and causing mayhem in parliament.

The coalition, which was reduced to the slimmest majority possible in the 120-seat parliament last week when Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned and left the government with his five-seat Yisrael Beytenu party — lost four motions of no confidence after the coalition boycotted them, according to the Knesset spokesperson.

It then failed to pass a government-proposed law after opposition lawmakers tricked the bill’s sponsor, prompting an intense yelling match between the session’s participants and causing all further votes to be called off and postponed to a later date.

The motions of no confidence were largely symbolic and did not topple the government, since such motions require at least 61 backers to do so.

The coalition boycotted all four votes in protest, after opposition members refused to agree with coalition colleagues to offset absences on a one-to-one basis, as is customary. That refusal meant the coalition did not have the majority to win the vote, and all its MKs subsequently left.

Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the Knesset’s winter session on October 15, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The four motions — each proposed by a different opposition party: Yesh Atid, Zionist Union, Meretz and Joint (Arab) List — all passed without a single vote against them and with between 44 and 50 backers.

Later, the coalition lost a vote on a land ownership bill that had been formulated jointly by coalition and opposition lawmakers, and subsequently called off all further votes scheduled for Monday evening.

MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee at the Knesset, on January 29, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Opposition MKs told Yoav Kisch (Likud) that they would support his land bill — which proposed define “three-dimensional lots,” a new kind of land lot in which ownership can be split according to depth and height, as in bridges and tunnels

But after the bill passed its second reading — the first vote out of two successive ones required for the motion to become law — MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) entered the Knesset plenum and ordered opposition members to strike it down on the third and final reading.

After 27 lawmakers backed the bill and just 14 opposed it in the first vote, chaos ensued ahead of the second vote following Hasson’s remark and the bill was eventually shot down, with 47 opposing it and only 42 supporters.

Kisch responded by decrying the opposition, calling MK Hasson a “liar.”

“This was a bill on a completely professional issue that was worked on jointly, coalition and opposition. It is unacceptable for Knesset members tell me they support it when I ask and then MK Hasson runs in and calls for voting against,” Kisch said.

“Yoel Hasson, you are a liar and are causing others to lie on your behalf,” he accused. “There is a limit to hypocrisy, I haven’t seen anyone stoop so low in the Knesset. It is an outrage that you struck down this bill.”

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