Likud MK Yehudah Glick plans to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration this week..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The death of Likud MK Yehudah Glick’s wife Yaffa turned into the center of a political debate Monday, as Glick’s absence exacerbated an already tight vote count.
Late Monday, Shas and UTJ decided to postpone the vote on the “mini-markets bill” – meant to curb further store openings on Shabbat – until next week, in light of Glick’s absence and that of Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay, who was hospitalized and whose doctor did not permit him to attend the vote.
Yaffa Glick died Monday morning, following a long hospital stay after a stroke.
The coalition planned to put several controversial bills to a vote Monday night: The “primaries bill,” funding incumbent MKs’ campaigns; the “Jerusalem bill,” requiring an 80 MK-minimum vote to concede parts of the capital; and the “mini-markets bill.”
The opposition submitted many objections to each bill on the agenda, adding up to a plenum meeting that was expected to last from Monday afternoon until well into Tuesday, only a week after a two-day filibuster.
Glick’s absence compounded the coalition’s difficulties in getting enough votes for the “mini-markets bill” to pass. New coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) faced a major challenge whipping up enough votes, because Yisrael Beytenu’s five lawmakers planned to vote against it as did Kulanu’s Tali Ploskov, Likud MK Sharren Haskel said she would skip the vote, and Azoulay’s health problems kept him away from the Knesset.
The other bills remained on Monday’s agenda, because they were not seen as likely to have trouble passing.
The opposition has, in recent weeks, upheld a no-offsetting policy. Customarily in the Knesset, if someone in the coalition had to be absent because of illness, family reasons or leaving the country for reasons of state, someone in the opposition would offset that absent by skipping votes.
Many in the coalition accused the opposition of cruelty, and vice-versa.
Glick himself expressed discomfort with the situation, writing on Twitter: “I beg of you not to turn my dear wife’s funeral into a reason for dispute in any way. Please increase love and positive energy.”
In an impromptu chat with journalists in the Knesset cafeteria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the opposition refusing to offset Glick: “You have to do it; it’s the humane thing to do.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein tweeted: “It’s the opposition’s right not to offset Yehudah Glick. It’s my right to say I know a different culture. I call on the opposition to reverse its insensitive decision for the good of all of us.”
Some in the coalition, like Interior Minister Arye Deri, the bill’s backer, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beytenu party are the problem.
At a Shas faction meeting, Deri said: “I heard about unprecedented behavior by the opposition... I include among them Yisrael Beytenu and am outraged by their inhumanity. Is this the message we want to send to the public?... Be human beings... Don’t turn political disputes into a display of inhumanity.”
Asked why the vote can’t be postponed, Interior Minister Arye Deri said the Knesset’s work can’t be put on hold, and the vote will pass “with God’s help.”
It is not unusual for votes to be pushed off to a later date because the coalition cannot get sufficient votes.
Liberman called the criticism “a new record in cynicism in Israeli politics.”
“I do not understand why we have to vote on the ‘mini-markets bill’ in the Knesset today when one of the Likud’s MKs is burying his wife. We asked the heads of the coalition to postpone the vote to next week... It’s not a bill on which Israel’s future depends. There’s nothing urgent about it,” Liberman said.
Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson, who is responsible for coordinating opposition votes, accused the Likud of “shameful spin, trying to accuse us of a moral low. The moral low is of everyone in the coalition who will vote week after week on anti-democratic and anti-liberal bills.”
Hasson added: “Anyone who wants to respect the horrible tragedy that happened to MK Glick must postpone the vote.”