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Renegade Likud MK quits after hastening election; colleague calls her a ‘bitch’

Michal Shir will join Gideon Sa’ar’s breakoff party New Hope; Osnat Mark takes back insult but maintains that defector was ‘insolent’ for voting against bill delaying national vote

Likud MK Michal Shir at an orientation day at the Knesset, April 29, 2019. (Noam Moscowitz/Knesset)
Likud MK Michal Shir at an orientation day at the Knesset, April 29, 2019. (Noam Moscowitz/Knesset)

Likud lawmaker Michal Shir, who went rogue and voted against a bill that may have averted now nearly certain early elections, submitted her resignation from the Knesset on Tuesday.

The Knesset overnight rejected a bill that would have deferred a Tuesday midnight deadline for passing the 2020 state budget, and thus set Israel on an almost certain course to its fourth general election in two years.

The bill was brought for a vote by the coalition but Shir, as well as three members of Likud’s unity government partner party Blue and White, broke ranks and voted against the proposal, leading to its defeat by a narrow margin of 49-47.

While Shir voted against the bill, another Likud lawmaker, MK Sharren Haskel, didn’t turn up for the vote, breaking party discipline. Later in the evening Shir announced that she was leaving Likud to join the recently established New Hope party set up by another Likud rebel, former MK Gideon Sa’ar. Haskel is expected to follow suit.

Shir had reportedly told associates that she wasn’t feeling well and would not be coming to the Knesset. Instead she arrived at the Knesset in somebody else’s car in a deliberate act of subterfuge to hide her presence. According to Channel 12 news, Shir hid in the Knesset parking lot, waiting until her name had been called for a third time before she entered the hall and voted against the legislation.

Likud MK Osnat Mark confirmed Tuesday that she had called Shir an “insolent bitch” for voting against the party line. While initially standing by the remark, Mark eventually apologized, though she insisted Shir’s actions were treacherous.

Likud MK Osnat Mark at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on October 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I told her she is an insolent bitch,” Mark said during an interview with Radio 103FM.

It was as lawmakers were leaving the plenum that Mark accosted Shir, according to Hebrew media reports.

“What Haskel and Shir did was a despicable thing,” Mark told the radio station. “I told Shir she is a bitch, and I don’t apologize for it. She is the most treacherous person there could be.”

Mark later said the slur was made in the heat of the moment and offered a partial apology.

“I apologize for the word ‘bitch’ but not ‘insolent,'” she said.

Mark went on to accuse her fellow party members of betraying the mandate they were given as MKs representing Likud. (Haskel is also reportedly set to join Sa’ar’s party.)

“You have decided to leave? No problem, do what Gideon Sa’ar did — return the mandate and afterward go and do whatever you want,” she said.

Irritation at the recent political developments, which saw the collapse of talks for a last-minute deal between Likud and Blue and White to prevent elections, led to former justice minister Haim Ramon telling the station that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a “political pig.”

Ramon represented Blue and White in negotiations for the deal that was apparently close to being finalized before both parties broke out in recrimination. Under the emerging terms of the agreement, the parties would have adjusted some of the existing unity government conditions in return for passing the state budget.

Former justice minister Haim Ramon at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on September 5, 2012. (Yoav Ari Dudkevitch / FLASH90)

In an interview with Radio 103FM Ramon blamed Netanyahu for the collapse.

“You want to know why we are going to elections? Benjamin Netanyahu, a political pig,” he said, going on to claim that an agreement had been nearly reached between the parties when representatives of Netanyahu demanded changes to increase the time he would get as prime minister in the premiership rotation deal with Gantz, at the expense of the latter.

Ramon, who served as minister for the now-defunct Kadima party that was itself a breakaway from Likud, also denounced Blue and White party members who opposed the bill in the Knesset as having chosen to commit political “suicide,” saying “it is fitting that they no longer go near the Knesset.”

MK Asaf Zamir makes a surprise appearance in the Knesset on December 22, 2020 to vote against a coalition budget bill. (Knesset spokesman/Danny Shem Tov)

Blue and White MKs Asaf Zamir, Miki Haimovich and Ram Shefa were among those who voted against the bill, dooming it, while other party members stayed away.

Blue and White MK Miki Haimovich votes in the Knesset against a bill that might have staved off elections, December 21, 2020 (Knesset channel screenshot)

Barring a highly improbable rapprochement Tuesday between Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, the Knesset will automatically dissolve at midnight, and Israelis will go to the polls again, probably on March 23, 2021.

Sa’ar, who resigned from the Likud party last week, has already been joined by MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel of the minor Derech Eretz faction and by popular MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, who became the first Likud lawmaker to defect to New Hope. Hebrew media reports indicated she would be No. 2 on Sa’ar’s slate.

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