Likud punishes MK who refused to vote for Haredi draft bill

MK Yoav Kisch, a former fighter pilot, to lose Internal Affairs Committee chairmanship for failing to back measure exempting yeshiva students from IDF service

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

The ruling Likud Party is set to punish one of its own by stripping him of his post as chair of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee after he refused to vote for a politically vital but controversial bill on Tuesday.

MK Yoav Kisch, a former Air Force fighter pilot, is staunchly opposed to the ultra-Orthodox-proposed bill, which would automatically exempt all Haredi religious seminary students from the military draft.

Under an agreement reached Tuesday to head off early elections, coalition parties voted in favor of the bill in a preliminary vote in the Knesset. The bill is now frozen at least until lawmakers return from their spring recess in mid-April, when it will be merged with a government-sponsored bill drafted by the Defense Ministry.

Kisch, aware of those details, abstained after waiting until after the bill gained 59 votes in favor (with 38 against) and was guaranteed to pass its preliminary vote.

Even so, by abstaining he broke party discipline and left Likud unable to deliver the number of votes it had promised the other coalition partners.

According to the Walla news site, Kisch met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the vote and informed him he would either abstain or vote against the bill. He was warned at the time that he would be forfeiting his committee chairmanship.

Kisch has only been chairman of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee for a few weeks, since fellow Likud MK David Amsalem left the post to replace MK David Bitan as coalition chair. Before that, Kisch served as chairman of the Knesset House Committee. It is not clear if Kisch will now be reassigned to one of his previous posts.

Likud’s Yehudah Glick also failed to vote for the measure, but informed Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein his voting button had failed to register and asked to be marked as voting in favor.

The bill passed thanks to several opposition lawmakers absenting themselves from the plenum, including all 13 MKs of the Joint Arab List, who had struck a deal with the bill’s ultra-Orthodox proponents to leave the plenum for the vote in exchange for a promise that a Haredi-backed proposal to silence the muezzin call of mosques at certain hours be frozen until the end of the current 20th Knesset.

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