More lawmakers push to cancel Knesset recess in light of Gaza war

Yesh Atid, National Unity join Yisrael Beytenu initiative to continue legislative work; coalition officials signal it will not happen

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

A vote on the state budget at the assembly hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A vote on the state budget at the assembly hall of the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Yesh Atid and National Unity parties joined Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman’s initiative to cancel this spring’s Knesset recess on Wednesday, arguing that it was wrong to halt legislative activities during wartime.

But coalition officials speaking to Hebrew media shot down the proposition.

National Unity MK Pnina Tamano-Shata informed coalition whip Ofir Katz that her party intended to support the initiative, provided that the Knesset only deal with war-related and consensus matters during the planned break.

In a statement, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party stated that it had started collecting lawmakers’ signatures as part of an effort to cancel the recess, which runs from April 7 to May 19.

“Israel is at war” and “during these difficult days elected officials must help as much as possible in all areas of the Knesset’s work,” a letter circulated among MKs by the party stated.

This work includes government oversight and “providing answers” to concerns raised by ordinary citizens, it said.

Following the announcements, MK Oded Forer released a statement on behalf of Yisrael Beytenu welcoming their support, declaring that it was “clear to everyone that while our soldiers are fighting on the northern and southern fronts, the Knesset cannot go into recess. This should also be clear to the coalition.”

Israel Beytenu party chairman MK Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, March 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

“I expect [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu also to join the Liberman initiative and instruct the chairman of the coalition and the chairman of the Knesset committee to take action to cancel the recess immediately,” he said.

Speaking at his party’s faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday, Liberman argued that it was “unacceptable” for the Knesset to go on recess during the current national security crisis.

Taking a vacation while 134 Israelis are held hostage in Gaza, Hezbollah rockets fall on the north and the issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment remains unresolved “is neither reasonable nor logical,” he said.

“I call on all of the leaders of the parties, the Speaker of the Knesset and the 120 members of the Knesset to reconsider going on vacation. It is unacceptable that the members of the Knesset will be on vacation against the background of everything we see and hear every day.”

But Channel 12 journalist Amit Segal cited a senior coalition official as stating that those pushing to cancel the recess “don’t want discussions in the Knesset, but rather the possibility of overthrowing the government.”

“We will go on recess and if they want, we will hold discussions about the war at any time,” the official stated.

Meanwhile, Amiel Yarhi, a journalist for the Kipa news site, shared a letter signed by several MKs from across the political spectrum requesting that Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana change the term “Knesset recess” to something that “does not imply a vacation.”

While plenum sessions are not held during recess, MKs have a “responsibility to continue their ongoing work for the citizens of the country,” they wrote.

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