Two new no-confidence measures against Netanyahu fail in Knesset

Unsuccessful attempts to unseat prime minister come as opposition lawmakers slam ‘messianic’ ministers’ call to resettle Gaza, budget that ‘encourages evasion of conscription’

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"

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on December 24, 2023. (AP Photo/ Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on December 24, 2023. (AP Photo/ Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool)

Two separate no-confidence motions against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to pass in the Knesset on Monday evening, a week after a previous effort by the Labor party to remove the increasingly unpopular prime minister fell far short of the necessary majority to pass in the 120-strong Knesset plenum.

Like that motion, the new votes also failed to garner even clear opposition backing: One of the motions, brought by Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, clinched only 25 votes in favor, while a second, supported by Hadash-Ta’al, received a mere 10.

Lapid argued he “never wanted to submit a motion of no confidence” but “then it became clear that the coalition hadn’t noticed that we were at war, hadn’t noticed there were soldiers in Gaza and didn’t care about anything” except “looting the public coffers” to allocate billions of shekels in coalition funds for sectoral interests.

This included NIS 8 million ($2 million) for “an association that deals with encouraging evasion of the IDF draft while people are doing 107 days of reserve duty because there are not enough soldiers,” Lapid continued, asserting that the budget had been written to facilitate “the political maintenance of a corrupt government during wartime.”

The two motions came only a week after Labor’s own no-confidence motion, which was not supported by Yesh Atid, received support from only 18 MKs in a vote boycotted by the coalition.

At the time, Lapid had said he would wait a week to see if the government would promote a budget that did not slash discretionary coalition funds, citing the government’s delay in submitting the budget to the Knesset.

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid speaks in support of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a plenum session of the Knesset, January 29, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite being approved by the cabinet earlier this month, the revised state budget for 2024, which contains adjustments to release funds to the war effort, has not yet been presented to lawmakers. This may be due to delays in obtaining ministerial approval for the transfer of coalition funds, Channel 12 reported on Sunday.

Monday’s debate in the plenum became heated, with Likud MK Hanoch Milwidsky being forcibly removed by Knesset ushers only hours after being asked to leave a hearing in the Knesset House Committee for an outburst there.

Lapid’s criticism of the government was not only limited to the budget. Earlier on Monday, he lashed out members of the coalition for attending a right-wing conference on Sunday night aimed at promoting the resettlement of the Gaza Strip following the war with Hamas.

Eleven government ministers and 15 coalition lawmakers attended the gathering at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, at which Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi of Netanyahu’s Likud party argued that Gazan civilians could be coerced into saying they want to leave the territory.

The conference was a “messianic, delusional, disconnected, transferist show,” Lapid declared at Yesh Atid’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset.

“In this coalition, on its watch, with the people you saw yesterday dancing on the stage, the October 7 massacre happened. That’s where their government led us. This is the result of their policy,” he said, arguing that Netanyahu’s silence in the face of the conference showed that he was happy to see “the country burn” as long as he retains power.

“They want to go back [to Gaza] their because of messianism,” he said of conference goers. “People will die because of this madness, as though enough haven’t died already. They don’t care about that. For them, all those who are now fighting in Gaza are acceptable sacrifices, all those who pay taxes are acceptable sacrifices, all those who die because of their delusions are acceptable sacrifices to bring about the messiah.”

Netanyahu did not attend the conference — which was condemned by other members of his coalition — and indicated Saturday night that he opposes resettling Gaza and that this was not an accepted government policy.

Government ministers and coalition MKs dance during a conference promoting the revival of Jewish settlements in Gaza, at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. National Security Minister itamar Ben Gvir is at front, center. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman also slammed coalition members’ participation in the conference at his faction meeting, telling reporters that while Karhi was discussing expelling Gazans, he still had not managed to shut down Qatari news channel Al Jazeera in Israel.

“So enough with all this chatter, let them focus on practical work,” he said.

Addressing the press ahead of his Otzma Yehudit party’s faction meeting, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir condemned the Yesh Atid chairman’s “hypocrisy” and told him “not to preach morality to us.”

“We offer the correct, rational, moral, and true solution,” he argued, calling for both the encouragement of Palestinian emigration and the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Ben Gvir also reiterated his threat to the stability of the government over what he claims are open-fire rules for IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip.

If it is true that “IDF soldiers stationed along the border with Gaza were ordered not to fire on Gazans approaching the border fence, “we will disrupt the work of the coalition,” he warned.

The army has denied any changes to regulations.

Jeremy Sharon and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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