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MK forced to come to Knesset with six-day-old baby, but coalition still loses a vote

Opposition had declined to offset new mom Shirly Pinto if she’d stayed away; but another coalition MK boycotted session, and Ra’am’s Abbas flubbed a vote, leading to opposition win

Yamina MK Shirly Pinto brings her new baby to the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)
Yamina MK Shirly Pinto brings her new baby to the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

The coalition on Wednesday found itself forced to call Yamina MK Shirly Pinto to the Knesset for a vote six days after she gave birth, in the wake of the opposition’s refusal to offset her absence and a decision by a lawmaker from the Yamina MK’s own party to boycott plenum proceedings.

Pinto was dispatched to the plenum for votes with her newborn in her arms in what Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called “a new low in behavior” by opposition chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.

While the latter did in fact refuse to offset Pinto, it was the additional decision by Yamina MK Abir Kara to boycott the day’s votes that left the coalition with just 59 MKs available — short of a majority.

Unable to convince Kara, who is refusing to cooperate with the coalition in protest of the government’s new Green Pass policy, the coalition was left with no choice but to call in Pinto. Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were also forced to attend, even though they are still finishing up their quarantine after returning from abroad over the weekend. They both voted from the glass-wall separated Knesset gallery.

Kara has said new policies to enforce the Green Pass at shopping malls unfairly discriminate against store owners.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said during the session that fellow opposition faction member Sami Abou Shehadeh had agreed to sit the vote out in order to offset Pinto, but that Kara’s boycott made the offer irrelevant. But Yesh Atid MK Boaz Toporovsky disputed the claim, calling Tibi a “liar.”

The opposition failed to garner a majority in most of the votes and coalition bills were able to move forward. In one of the votes, though, Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas accidentally voted with the opposition, allowing Likud MK Orly Levy-Abekasis’s bill to expand the use of solar panels to pass 60-59.

Pinto, the Knesset’s first-ever deaf MK, used the opportunity to take the podium and deliver a speech tearing into the opposition.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz vote from the Knesset gallery due to quarantine requirements on December 15, 2021.(Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)

“Unfortunately, dear opposition, you have been deceived by the spirit of the commander, a spirit that demands the adoption of inhumane behavior,” Pinto said, referring to Netanyahu.

The Yamina lawmaker was heckled throughout her speech by opposition lawmakers who accused the coalition of manufacturing the controversy when Kara could simply have come to vote in the first place.

“In any other case, I would understand the opposition’s considerations not to approve offsets, but this time we have entered a parallel and insane world where it makes sense to bring in a woman who has just given birth,” Pinto said.

“I wish I did not have to deliver this speech. I wish I were not here at all now. I would have been happy to be home recovering like any normal woman six days after giving birth,” she said.

This was not the first time the Knesset faced disputes over lawmakers’ unwillingness to offset their colleagues’ absence due to extenuating circumstances. Former Likud MK Yehudah Glick was dispatched to the Knesset in 2018 midway through the shiva mourning period for his late wife after opposition lawmakers refused to have one of their own lawmakers sit out the vote.

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