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Yamina defector Chikli appeals party ouster as undemocratic

MK asks district court to consider the obligations and allegiances of a lawmaker: whether they lie with the voters who elected him or only the party leader

MK Amichai Chikli at a Knesset House Committee meeting on the Yamina party's request to declare him a 'defector,' on April 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Amichai Chikli at a Knesset House Committee meeting on the Yamina party's request to declare him a 'defector,' on April 25, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Former Yamina MK Amichai Chikli on Monday filed an appeal against his ouster from the party, telling the Jerusalem District Court that the democratic character of the country was at stake and that he had not been given a fair hearing by the Knesset House Committee when it approved his removal.

Chikli, who voted against the formation of the government last July and continued to vote against afterwards, was finally kicked out of Yamina in April. Designation as a defector has political ramifications, including preventing him from running for reelection in the next national ballot with any faction already in the Knesset.

The lawmaker, now an independent, charged that the Knesset House Committee had rubberstamped Yamina’s request to oust him and in doing so had been motivated by political considerations, rather than regulations. In his appeal, he also raised the question of whether a Knesset member is required to show allegiance to the head of the party, or to the voters who elected him MK.

“Are MKs entitled to vote in the Knesset according to their opinion, belief, conscience, party platform and promise to their electorate, or are they merely puppets operated by their faction leaders,” Chikli wrote in the appeal filed by his legal team.

Chikli asked the court to consider the “the essential constitutional questions” posed by his removal from the party, such as whether under Israel’s democratic system “the legislature consists of 120 MKs who express the will of the electorate, or a limited number of faction leaders who can decide anything according to their personal wishes and decisions?”

“Is the Knesset member loyal to the public or loyal to the party?” he asked.

Chikli also challenged the power of party leaders to remove members, questioning whether the Knesset “had intended to give faction leaders such a dramatic sanction against members of their faction” to maintain discipline.

He claimed that he was not given a fair hearing and that the committee was “guided by political considerations only.”

Chikli’s removal was widely seen at the time as a sign to other Yamina lawmakers to stay in line after former coalition whip MK Idit Silman eliminated the coalition’s majority by jumping ship in early April. Yamina filed its request to eject Chikli from the party a day after Silman’s departure and he was booted shortly thereafter.

Silman’s move to quit the coalition, though not to leave her party, left the government with just 60 seats in parliament, equal to those of the opposition.

The government has struggled to pass legislation ever since, with right-wing opposition parties vowing to oppose all its bills regardless of content.

As a result, key legislation has been defeated in the Knesset, sometimes with the aid of rebellious lawmakers from other parties in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition of eight disparate parties.

Last week an essential bill to renew a longstanding measure extending Israeli law to West Bank settlers was blocked by the opposition with the help of two coalition lawmakers who voted against it and others who skipped the session.

Since then, another Yamina member, pro-settlement MK Nir Orbach, is said to be considering defecting to the opposition. Bennett has been working hard to keep Orbach on his team, holding multiple meetings with him in recent days.

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