Opposition invokes Lamentations and Richard III amid police bill filibuster
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Opposition invokes Lamentations and Richard III amid police bill filibuster

Seeking to delay vote on controversial legislation, lawmakers at the podium turn to Shakespeare, soccer talk and even to reading out text messages from concerned citizens

MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) at the Knesset, June 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) at the Knesset, June 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition lawmakers talked through a second night of a lengthy filibuster session Tuesday, as they sought to delay voting on the government’s controversial police recommendations bill.

Knesset members employed various tactics at the podium in their bid to hamper voting on the bill, which the opposition says is an attempt to protect corrupt officials.

Zionist Union party chairman Yoel Hasson spent three hours Tuesday reading texts he had received from constituents, the Haaretz newspaper reported. These included a retired teacher who said she was “ashamed as a citizen to see this outlandish law.” Another simply inquired if the number he had received for Hasson was “real.”

At one point Hasson even had the coalition’s MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) come up and read the Jewish Tefilat Haderech prayer (the Traveler’s Prayer) with him, for a man who wrote to him that he was traveling.

Another Zionist Union MK, Eitan Cabel, read out — and sang out — portions from the Bible’s Book of Lamentations on the destruction of ancient Jerusalem. He later somewhat undercut that sense of gravity when he exchanged his thoughts on Saturday’s El Clasico soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona with MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List).

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) addresses the Israeli Knesset, file (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said he would use his time to read excerpts from Shakespeare’s Richard III, “on the depths a man can sink to due to lust for power” — a jab at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to the Ynet news website, MKs from both the coalition and the opposition have been instructed to sleep in the Knesset or in nearby hotels in the event that a vote is called on short notice.

 

The filibuster began shortly after 3 a.m Tuesday, with opposition lawmakers taking turns speaking before a near-empty plenum.

The debate could last as long as three days, Hadashot news reported.

In anticipation of the days-long plenary session, many of parliament’s Tuesday and Wednesday committee meetings were canceled, as opposition lawmakers vowed to obstruct the passage of the law for as long as possible.

Opposition leaders have railed against the recommendations bill, which would prevent police from commenting on whether there is an evidentiary basis for indictment of public officials, upon concluding their investigations and handing over their cases to prosecutors.

However, the bill by Likud MK David Amsalem also states that the attorney general, state prosecution, or other prosecutors may seek police input on the evidence, should it be deemed necessary.

MK Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid. (Flash90)

The proposed law will not apply to open cases, including ongoing investigations into Netanyahu and former coalition chairman David Bitan.

 

 

The final votes on the bill come as police gear up to issue recommendations on Netanyahu’s two corruption cases.

The prime minister is suspected of accepting pricey gifts from billionaire benefactors and of cutting an alleged quid-pro-quo with a newspaper publisher for more favorable coverage. He denies wrongdoing in both cases.

Marissa Newman contributed to this report.

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