The Knesset .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The opposition celebrated its first victory with hugs and shouts of excitement Wednesday, after a bill regarding debt collection passed a preliminary reading by one vote even though the government did not support it.
The slip-up by the narrow, 61-seat coalition was viewed as the beginning of the end for the current government among the gleeful opposition, which played a successful parliamentary trick.
Yesh Atid MKs Aliza Lavie, Yoel Razbozov and Mickey Levy, along with Zionist Union MKs Nachman Shai, Ksenia Svetlova, Michal Biran, Yossi Yonah, Merav Michaeli and Miki Rosenthal, all walked out of the plenum shortly before the vote, giving the opposition’s side the appearance of being fairly empty.
Then, after MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) presented her bill – which would require debt collectors to file cases in courts close to debtors’ homes – and the vote began, the MKs ran back in to the plenum and voted.
The trick was Michaeli’s idea and was planned in advance with other opposition parties, which agreed to enact it during the vote on Elharar’s proposal. The opposition chose a minor bill intentionally, so that the coalition would be less alert.
The coalition still had 47 MKs to the opposition’s 46 in the plenum, but two coalition MKs did not vote.
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz thought that he had a deal to offset Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On – meaning that they would both abstain from voting – and did not press the button on his screen. However, it turned out that MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) was offsetting Gal-On, not Steinitz. Coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), whose job is to make sure the coalition has enough MKs to win all votes, was spotted chastising Steinitz after the vote.
Meanwhile, MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) ran to his seat, but pressed his button seconds too late for it to count.
Coalition sources said the loss was not a big deal, as it was on a minor bill, and the fact that they actually had a majority of MKs in the plenum showed that they were functioning normally.
MK Oren Hazan (Likud) wrote a tweet that typified the coalition’s reaction to the events: “The opposition won... they clapped, hugged, celebrated and were overjoyed as though at the very least we signed a peace treaty. Have you heard of proportions?” “Since it doesn’t look like peace will break out in your time, even a poor man’s joy is still joyous,” Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli quipped in return.
Indeed, the opposition was effusive in its happiness about the result.
“There is no government in Israel,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said.
“This is how governments begin to fall,” fellow Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni tweeted, citing cooperation between opposition parties.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid took to Twitter as well, writing that “the legend of the ‘coalition that never lost a vote’ lasted less than two months.”
“There is an opposition in Israel and it is here to work for all Israeli citizens, the weak and the poor,” Elharar tweeted. “Now there is a chance that debt collection will be more accessible to debtors.”