A request by a rebel lawmaker in Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party to delay a Knesset committee hearing regarding his ouster from the party was denied on Tuesday.
MK Amichai Chikli ran as part of Yamina in last year’s election, but refused to join the ruling coalition over its inclusion of the Islamist Ra’am party. He has remained in the party, however, while opposing the government on numerous key votes.
Bennett’s party held off on seeking to legally brand Chikli a defector despite his rebellion, but earlier this month pushed ahead with the punitive measure, which could limit Chikli’s ability to run again or serve in certain capacities.
The move was seen as a bid to stop other MKs from bolting, after Yamina MK Idit Silman left the coalition, depriving the government of its majority and leaving the Knesset deadlocked.
A letter from Chikli’s lawyer, Guy Bossi, asked that the meeting — scheduled for April 25 — be delayed until at least May 25, which would follow the Knesset’s return from recess earlier that month.
Responding to Bossi, Blue and White MK and Deputy Knesset Speaker Eitan Ginzburg — who will oversee the debate — said that there was no reason to delay proceedings.
“The date of the House Committee’s meeting to discuss the request to declare MK Chikli’s ouster from Yamina was determined as is customary at the House Committee’s and after further examination, we do not intend to change it,” Ginzburg wrote in a letter to Chikli’s lawyer.
The Blue and White lawmaker also denied Chikli’s request to have Bennett and fellow Yamina Minister Ayelet Shaked testify at his hearing.
“The committee is not run like a court,” he wrote. “The committee does not invite ministers and Knesset members to serve as witnesses in order to prove arguments at the hearing, and no investigations are held there.”
Ginzburg told Chikli and his team to prepare their arguments “so they will be heard in one meeting,” adding that he does not intend to hold further hearings.
It remains unclear if there will be sufficient support for Yamina’s push to oust Chikli. The House Committee is led by Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who has himself put forward several right-wing demands to remain in the government and is one of several MKs in Bennett’s party considered as having the potential to follow Silman in breaking with the coalition.
If approved, his ouster could be a blow to Chikli’s political aspirations, as Knesset rules would prevent him from running with any faction currently sitting in the parliament in the next elections, which — if the government collapses without an alternative proposal from the opposition — could be declared soon.
Chikli, however, could potentially form a new political faction, something he has recently hinted that he is considering.