Those who said the new 94-MK coalition would be able to easily win any Knesset vote received a rude awakening on Monday evening, as Judge Joseph Shapira – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s choice – was elected state comptroller, but only in the third round of voting.

Shapira, a Jerusalem District Court judge for the past seven years, is the official candidate of the Knesset’s three biggest parties – Likud, Kadima and Yisrael Beytenu – and was nominated by 70 MKs earlier this month, but won the vote with the support of 68 legislators after getting less than 60 in the previous two rounds.

Current State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss finishes his term on July 3. In Israel, the comptroller also serves as ombudsman.

The state comptroller vote is by secret ballot, as per the 1988 Basic Law: State Comptroller, which means that party and coalition discipline cannot be enforced. As such, many Kadima MKs and a few in Likud rebelled and voted for Deputy Supreme Court President Eliezer Rivlin instead.

Several Kadima MKs explained that they would like to rebel against the unity coalition, but cannot do so; therefore, they voted against the agreed-upon choice of comptroller.

One Kadima source said the vote shows Netanyahu cannot force the party to do what he wants.

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) said she would vote for Rivlin, because she saw him preside over a case in which he “saved the life” of a Russian immigrant that had been mistreated by lower courts. She tried to convince other MKs from the former Soviet Union to follow suit.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin is the only Likud MK to openly support Eliezer Rivlin for Comptroller. The two are distant cousins, but the Knesset speaker says they do not know each other well.

The first two rounds of voting for the state comptroller can only be won by 61 MKs.

In the first round, Shapiro received 58 votes, with Rivlin receiving 44 and Institute of Internal Auditors president Shlomo Calderon supported by 10 MKs. In the second round, ballot committee members Knesset Ethics Committee chairman Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), MK Arye Eldad (National Union) and MK Rachel Adatto (Kadima) counted 59 for Shapira, 45 for Rivlin and two for Calderon.

Shapira won the third round with support from 68 MKs, though he could have become comptroller with a simple plurality.

Rivlin received 40 votes.

Knesset Speaker Rivlin, along with several other MKs, visited Shapira immediately after the vote to congratulate him.

“Today, you sweated because of MKs, but soon you will make them sweat,” outgoing Knesset State Control Committee chairman Ronnie Bar- On (Kadima) joked, adding that he is sure the Knesset will unite around Shapira.

Vaknin called the three rounds of voting “democracy at its finest.”

According to MK Yariv Levin (Likud), Shapira’s victory is a triumph over the Supreme Court, from which most comptrollers had come.

“The Knesset made an excellent choice in supporting Judge Shapira,” Levin said.

“He has exceptional courage, and I am convinced he will make a great contribution to the State Comptroller’s Office.”

Kadima faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik also expressed satisfaction that Shapira was elected, adding that she is certain he will be a dedicated comptroller.

In the opposition, Meretz and National Union MKs also spoke out in favor of the Shapira, saying he is an excellent choice, will serve independently and be unbiased.

MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said he could not vote for Rivlin, explaining that “when I want to be right, I do the opposite of the recommendations of Haaretz, which aggressively campaigned against Shapira.”

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