Opposition, Yisrael Beytenu won’t ‘offset’ absence of Likud MK after wife dies

Coalition accuses opposition of ‘losing its humanity’ but Zionist Union says government can just delay vote on shuttering shops on Shabbat

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

File: Yehudah Glick and his wife at a press conference at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on November 24, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Yehudah Glick and his wife at a press conference at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on November 24, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The opposition joined the coalition Yisrael Beytenu party on Monday in refusing to have one lawmaker bow out of an upcoming vote on a bill to shutter mini-markets on Shabbat, saying they would not offset the absence of Likud MK Yehudah Glick, whose wife died on Monday morning.

The decision not to allow the parliamentary offset, often extended as a courtesy, was decried by ministers and senior members of the coalition, who accused the opposition of “losing their humanity.”

Hitting back, the opposition said the coalition could easily delay the Shabbat bill — set for its final votes on Monday evening — to a later date.

The process of giving the coalition a pass by allowing it to retain the same majority margin — in Hebrew kizuz — is a commonplace gesture, but not a requirement, in the Knesset, frequently arranged between the coalition and opposition for lawmakers who are ill or have pressing social engagements, family commitments, and so on.

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) attends a Knesset Committee meeting on September 20, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

However, since the appointment of the Zionist Union’s Yoel Hasson as opposition whip, the move has been suspended as part of a larger effort to step up the opposition’s fighting power. Meretz’s Ilan Gilon drew fire late last year after he skipped a vote to offset a hospitalized Shas minister, which he later defended as a “humanitarian” move.

On Monday, Hasson said there would be no arrangements made to accommodate Glick.

Sending condolences to the Likud lawmaker, Hasson added: “The mini-markets law is not urgent; we’ve lived here just fine without it for 70 years. There will be no deals and the coalition can delay the vote. It’s in its hands.”

The Yisrael Beytenu coalition party, which forcefully opposes the Shabbat bill and plans to vote against it, also announced it would not aid the rest of the coalition on the matter.

The decision by the opposition drew criticism from senior coalition lawmakers, though they did not address Yisrael Beytenu’s refusal.

“An opposition that refuses to help an MK who must be absent due to the funeral of his wife has lost its humanity and is not worthy of serving as an alternative to the government’s rule,” said Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin. “Avi Gabbay, Boujie [Isaac] Herzog, and Yair Lapid — I urge you to wake up and uphold the dignity of the Knesset, which Yoel Hasson degraded this morning in your name.”

“The last person from whom I will accept advice on magnanimity is MK Elkin, who as coalition chairman had no mercy, no forgiveness, and never gave in,” said Hasson, who formerly served with Elkin in the Kadima party over a decade ago. “The coalition is responsible for the situation that was created. They are invited to deal with it.”

In a statement, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) said the opposition “had the right” not to offset Glick, but nonetheless implored it to reverse its decision.

“I call on the opposition to withdraw from its insensitive position for all of our sakes,” said Edelstein.

Hours before his wife’s funeral, Glick took to Twitter to implore lawmakers not to turn his bereavement into a political battle.

“I beg of you,” he wrote, “that my dear wife’s funeral should not become the subject of a fight. Please increase love and positive energy.”

Even before Glick’s absence, the coalition struggled to muster a majority for the proposal, with the Likud MK among several coalition MKs — including the Yisrael Beytenu party, Likud MK Sharren Haskel, and Kulanu MKs Rachel Azaria, Tali Ploskov, and Merav Ben Ari — who expressed reservations or outright opposition to the bill.

The bill came on the heels of a crisis between the government and its ultra-Orthodox coalition partners that saw Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party resign as health minister last month over his opposition to train maintenance conducted on Shabbat.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly reached a deal with the ultra-Orthodox parties under which the government would propose laws maintaining the status quo with regard to Shabbat observance in Israel.

The bill would grant the Interior Ministry the power to oversee and reject local ordinances relating to whether business may remain open on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest that runs from Friday evening through Saturday night.

Though the bill would make an exception for mostly secular Tel Aviv, it could lead to stores in other places being forced to shut down for the Jewish day of rest. The measure came after the High Court upheld Tel Aviv’s right to allow markets to stay open on Shabbat.

Outpouring of condolences for Glick

The death of Yaffa Glick was met with an outpouring of condolences from across the political spectrum.

In October 2014, Yehudah Glick — prior to entering Knesset — was shot four times by a Palestinian terrorist in Jerusalem over his Temple Mount activism. Yaffa Glick, 51, who suffered a debilitating stroke several months ago, became a familiar face in Israel during her husband’s recovery.

Glick was scheduled to be buried in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon. She is survived by her husband and eight children.

Yehuda Glick (R) and his wife pose for a picture at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on November 13, 2014, (courtesy of the family via Flash90)

“My condolences to MK Yehudah Glick on the death of his wife, Yaffa,” tweeted President Reuven Rivlin. “Together with all of the people of Israel, I followed her sad story and was impressed by the family’s devotion.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a statement, said he had spoken with Glick to convey his condolences.

“Together with all of Israel, we mourn her death and send strength to him and his family in their time of deep sorrow,” said Netanyahu.

Likud MK Amir Ohana, who served as a volunteer bodyguard for Glick in the hospital during his recovery (and before both had entered Knesset) also paid tribute to Yaffa Glick.

“I got to know her during the difficult times, after the failed assassination attempt against Yehudah,” wrote Ohana on Twitter. “‘A soul woven with threads of steel and silk,’ Jabotinsky wrote of women, a description tailor-made for Yaffi.”

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