The Zionist Union opposition party suspended one of its own lawmakers Thursday as a punishment for failing to be in the Knesset for a vote on an opposition-sponsored bill which was subsequently defeated by the coalition by a single vote.
After the recent resignation of former defense minister Avigdor Liberman left the government with a narrow majority of just 61 seats to 59, both the coalition and opposition have been pushing their lawmakers to attend all votes in parliament to gain, or defeat, any possible advantage.
Zionist Union faction chair MK Yoel Hasson decided to suspend party member MK Robert Tiviaev of his duties for a month after the latter did not attend the vote on a bill to increase stipends for elderly people to the level of minimum wage. The bill was stopped by the coalition with 57 votes to 56.
Although an even vote of 57-57 would still have seen defeat for the bill, sponsored by Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli, the party said it was punishing Tiviaev for not falling into line.
In a statement, the Zionist Union said “if during the coming month MK Tiviaev will act like a team player and in line with the party’s position, the sanctions will be lifted. If he acts against the party, the sanctions will be made more severe.”
Shmuli accused his party peer Tiviaev of selling out to the coalition.
“This is a betrayal of the elderly that will not be forgiven,” he tweeted. “I hope for his sake the he was bought for a good price.”
Tiviaev said in a statement that he was unable to make it to the vote because he needed to attend an urgent meeting.
“Clearly, it is an important bill. To my regret, I was in an urgent meeting that I had to attend and prevented me from arriving for the vote,” he explained.
Tiviaev made efforts to limit the influence of his absence by agreeing to an “adjustment” with Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel who did not support the coalition against the bill. Under the terms of an adjustment, lawmakers from both sides of the house can agree with each other to not attend a vote to cancel out each other’s absence.
The opposition is finding it hard to muster enough votes to take advantage of the government’s slim majority. MK Hilik Bar, who is in China despite protestations from Hasson, may also face discipline, Zionist Union said.
Compounding the attendance woes, Zionist Union MK Saleh Saad was rushed from the Knesset to a hospital with heart pains Wednesday afternoon, and is being admitted for observation.
Last week, Likud MK Sharren Haskel, who had been hospitalized, came to the Knesset with an IV still in her arm to help defeat a motion to dissolve the Knesset, after no opposition lawmakers agreed to offset her absence.
Bar, who said he flew to China after canceling meetings there twice before, said he had arranged with Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin to offset his absence, but drew angry approbation from Hasson nonetheless.
After Hasson tweeted that Bar did not have faction approval for the arrangement with Vaknin or the trip abroad, Bar responded by calling Hasson “a liar.”
The Zionist Union said Wednesday that Bar’s situation will be “deliberated when he returns to the country.”