Likud MK came to Knesset with IV to help battle vote on Wed.

Opposition to call no-confidence vote during official visit by Czech president

After Knesset speaker cancels anti-settlement conference, left-wing Meretz party declares it is determined to go ahead with move, despite previously agreeing to back down

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: A general view of the assembly hall in the Knesset during a session on November 21, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: A general view of the assembly hall in the Knesset during a session on November 21, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The left-wing Meretz opposition party said it intends to call a no-confidence vote next week during an official visit to the Knesset by the president of the Czech Republic, despite an agreement between the coalition and opposition to not hold the destabilizing vote while the foreign dignitary is in the House.

The move came after opposition parties on Wednesday abruptly pulled their no-confidence motions when it became apparent that the coalition — whittled down to just 61 of 120 MKs after Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party quit the government last week — had enough votes to knock the resolutions down.

Meretz, which has the support of other opposition parties, declared its intentions after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein canceled an anti-settlement conference that was due to be held in parliament during the visit Monday of Czech Republic President Milos Zeman.

In response, Edelstein accused opposition parties of trying to embarrass the government in front of its Czech guest, who is scheduled to give a speech in parliament on the same day.

“It is a shame that the opposition is choosing to break agreements and cause a diplomatic embarrassment,” Edelstein said in a statement. “We will act to change the schedule on Monday to enable a friend of Israel, the Czech president, to give his speech in the plenum as planned.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, on January 30, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Hebrew-media Ynet website reported Thursday that Edelstein asked the Knesset’s House Committee to enforce a special agenda for the day of Zeman’s visit, canceling all side meetings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with Czech President Milos Zeman at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on October 7, 2013. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

The scrapped conference, titled “Hebron First” was to have pushed for the removal of all Jewish settlers from the West Bank town of Hebron where several hundred Israelis live among a population of over 200,000 Palestinians. It was organized by leader of the Joint (Arab) List MK Ayman Odeh, his fellow party member MK Dov Khenin, and Meretz MK Michal Rozin.

Rozin accused Edelstein of electioneering ahead of his Likud party’s primary elections, which are expected to be held by the end of the year.

“It is not logical that on the one hand Edelstein lectures us on statehood and on the other hand acts without authority to cancel a democratic summit,” Rozin said, according to a Channel 10 news report. “He should prepare for the upcoming primaries on someone else’s expense, not at the expense of Israeli democracy and his important position, which has apparently slipped his mind.”

Edelstein on Wednesday ordered that all meetings in Knesset rooms be aborted in order to make the space available for Zeman’s accompanying staff. However opposition lawmakers rejected the idea that Zeman’s team would need all of the 20-odd conference rooms in the parliament.

Meretz MK Michal Rozin (Alster/Flash90)

Following former defense minister Liberman’s resignation last week and his withdrawal of his Yisrael Beytenu party’s five MKs from the coalition, the government was left with a narrow, two-seat majority.

The opposition had already planned a no-confidence vote on Wednesday but withdrew the motion at the last minute after it became clear it did not have a majority in parliament, in part because MK Sharren Haskel of the ruling Likud party left her hospital bed and arrived at the plenum with an infusion in her arm in order to help defend the government.

Haskel, who was earlier hospitalized after feeling unwell, told Hadashot news that she had asked the opposition to agree to pull one of its own MKs from the vote in order to enable her to remain at the hospital. The non-obligatory arrangement is sometimes used when an MK is unable to reach parliament for a vote due to dire circumstances.

“Unfortunately, they did not agree, but all the antics of the opposition will not help,” she said. “Together we are a strong coalition and I stand here alongside my party.”

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