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‘No absences’ allowed: Coalition gears up for battle on eve of Knesset reopening

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

MK Nir Orbach (standing) seen with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman during a Knesset plenum session, November 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Nir Orbach (standing) seen with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman during a Knesset plenum session, November 29, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In anticipation of opening next week’s Knesset session with a roster of only 60 MKs — provided Ra’am returns its four lawmakers to the ruling bloc -– coalition faction heads have released a letter informing members that they must be present for all Knesset plenum sessions for the next three weeks.

“During the first three weeks of the session’s opening, no absences will be accepted, for any reason,” the letter reads, in bold and underlined font.

Without a majority in the 120-seat chamber, the coalition needs every member present to advance legislation, a backlog of which remains from the last session.

After the three weeks, all intended absences from a plenum workday – generally Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday – must be approved by coalition management and must include a five-day advance notice and, critically, identification of an opposition MK who will offset the absence.

Offsetting votes is a common Knesset practice, whereby a coalition and an opposition MK cancel out their votes by an agreed-upon mutual absence or abstention. The opposition can choose to limit the use of this tool in order to complicate the coalition’s already tricky path toward turning bills into laws.

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