Ready to rumble: Opposition set to start fighting

Yacimovich-led opposition more united, angrier than last, and it prepared a filibuster for its first day.

March 18, 2013 19:32
3 minute read.
Labor head MK Shelly Yacimovich

Labor chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Newly sworn-in opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich has repeated several times in the past few weeks that she is going to lead a “fighting opposition.”

“We’re your opposition. Today we open the national argument, and it will be sharp and deep,” she said in the plenum Wednesday.

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This wasn’t just political bluster from a new opposition leader. The coalition will face a more formidable, experienced and united opposition than they’ve seen in years – and its first challenge will already arrive on Tuesday, in the form of a filibuster on the government’s bill to extend the due date for a budget from 45 to 120 days.

The last opposition was led by Kadima for most of the 18th Knesset and included the right-wing National Union, joint Arab-Israeli socialist party Hadash and Arab parties UAL-Ta’al and Balad. A shrunken Labor joined later. The five or six parties rarely succeeded in working together to fight the coalition.

Now, as MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) pointed out on Twitter recently, the coalition and opposition are each united around at least one issue: the economy. The coalition parties are all capitalist, the opposition is entirely social-democratic or to the left of that (except for a newly tiny Kadima).

Plus, this opposition is angry. It’s ready to fight.

UTJ MKs are seething over being left out of the coalition.

They interrupted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speeches Monday with cries of “Jews do not expel Jews” and walked out of the plenum when Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett’s name was mentioned.

Yacimovich pointed out that all of the coalition’s parties are led by wealthy people, most of whom are from well-known families, who never had to struggle to make a living. She then took her accusations one step further, listing Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri’s earnings – NIS 2.3 million per year.

On top of the unity and the anger, the opposition has the advantage of being made up mostly of veterans who are experts at the first topic at hand for the new government – the budget.

UTJ MKs Moshe Gafni and Ya’acov Litzman, both former Knesset Finance Committee chairmen, are known for their intelligence and sharp wit, and for their extensive familiarity with the budget.

Yacimovich has been a member of the Finance Committee for years and has dealt with countless budgetary maneuvers, and new Labor MK Michal Biran was her parliamentary assistant throughout many of them. Plus, MK Avishay Braverman, a professor of economics, is not lacking in knowledge or things to say on the topic.

Shas is no slacker when it comes to the budget, either.

Coalition lawmakers will have to keep their eyes on MK David Azoulay, for example.

It’s not yet clear who the coalition will send to the Finance Committee, but its options are slim, and few of its available members seem ready for this fight.

All of Yesh Atid’s MKs are new, which means they have no experience with the budget.

Bayit Yehudi’s Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky was an MK for over a decade, with plenty of experience in that area, but others in his party who are available to join the panel are freshman legislators.

Only seven out of 31 Likud Beytenu MKs do not have a position other than legislator – meaning minister, deputy minister or committee chairman.

Of those, two are new (Moshe Feiglin, Shimon Ohayon). Expect Reuven Rivlin, ex-Knesset speaker and a former Finance Committee member, to take a seat on the panel.

The coalition intended to request an extension for passing the budget. According to the current law, it must be passed in all three legislative readings by May 2. The government wanted to extend that to July 16.

The opposition would not just sit by quietly and allow that to happen.

A Labor spokeswoman said the opposition is willing to filibuster the extension “until [US President Barack] Obama arrives and until the eve of Pessah” and even after, to make life difficult for the coalition.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid decided not to bring a twoyear budget to a vote on Tuesday. Due to thethreat of a filibuster, the government also agreed on Monday night to have a shorter extension.

The opposition sees this as a preliminary victory but is still prepared for a fight.

“You know what [former prime minister] Menachem Begin used to say? That the Left hates capitalists, but loves capital,” Likud Deputy Minister Ophir Akunis told reporters at a faction meeting Monday afternoon.

Well, the opposition is ready to rumble over capital.

Is the coalition?

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