Yacimovich attendance policy enrages Labor MKs

Opposition head institutes zero-tolerance for absences.

June 21, 2013 02:38
3 minute read.
Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich

Labor party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Labor and Yesh Atid MKs are outraged at a new policy of opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) to not tolerate absences from her MKs or permit them to offset coalition members who miss the budget votes expected to occupy the Knesset until the beginning of August, calling her “hysterical.”

Offsetting – or kizuzim – is a common practice in the Knesset whereby an MK in the coalition or opposition will skip a vote to counteract the absence of a lawmaker on the other side. Legislators use this practice for myriad reasons, ranging from ideological stances to health to family weddings and other events.

“Members of the faction are bitter, to say the least, about the policy,” a high-ranking Labor source said. “Yacimovich is so stubborn and unwilling to budge; she’s become obsessed.”

Yacimovich’s policy first came to light on Monday, when, following her speech opposing the budget before its first plenum vote, Finance Minister Yair Lapid approached Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog. Lapid explained to Herzog that Education Minister Shai Piron was resting at home after a hospital stay due to chest pains, and that MK Karin Alharrar (Yesh Atid), who has muscular dystrophy and is wheelchair-bound, is bedridden after giving birth to her first son. The Yesh Atid leader asked Herzog for two opposition MKs to offset their absence.

Yacimovich, who was sitting next to Herzog, heard Lapid and responded “Under absolutely no circumstances.”

“Lapid was furious,” an observer recounted. “Smoke was coming out of his ears.”

MK Aliza Lavie took to Facebook on Thursday to express her disappointment with Yacimovich.

“Is this the opposition leader’s contribution to helping women join the workforce?” she asked. “Is this the example she sets for men who don’t hire women because they’re afraid they’ll take pregnancy leave? “Apparently, Yacimovich’s ‘sisters’ belong to a very specific political sector,” Lavie said, referring to the Labor leader’s use of the term in a speech Monday.

On Wednesday, MK Ronen Hoffman (Yesh Atid) discovered that MK Nachman Shai (Labor) will not be taking part in a mission to the Council of Europe because of Labor’s policy.

“This is an important diplomatic mission, but without someone to offset me, I can’t go,” Hoffman explained. “I would expect [Labor] to put the good of the Knesset and the country first, and try to improve Israel’s foreign relations.”

Last month, Hoffman and Shai attended a Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg, in which the organization’s diplomatic body condemned settlement construction and demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners.

At the request of the Knesset’s Foreign Relations Department, the two planned to attend a follow-up meeting to discourage the council from making further decisions that could be harmful to Israel.

A Knesset source called the last-minute cancellation “a scandal,” and the Knesset Channel reported Thursday that the legislature will still have to pay for the trip – which was planned for Monday thru Wednesday – because it is too late to get refunds from airlines and hotels.

“Yacimovich doesn’t understand the importance of Israel’s foreign relations,” a Yesh Atid source said. “Unfortunately, she prefers to give up the opportunity to defend Israel’s interests in Europe for the good of political arguing and a populist headline in the media.”

A Labor source said many in the faction don’t understand why she wouldn’t make an exception for Shai and Hoffman, since they offset each other. The source also took issue with an email Yacimovich sent to Labor MKs Wednesday reminding them that she expects full attendance, calling it a “basic condition for effectiveness as a faction.”

“We don’t think it’s a problem for them to go abroad, even though we all understand the importance of voting against the budget. She’s in hysterics over the offsetting,” the source added.

A source close to Yacimovich quipped that “Ronen Hoffman isn’t going to save the world. Yesh Atid needs to have some proportions.

“If diplomacy is so important to Lapid, he should talk to the prime minister, get us out of the freeze in negotiations with the Palestinians and bring peace,” the source added.

Labor’s official response stated that “the faction decided not to allow offsetting in votes on the budget. It is no secret that we believe this is a budget that severely harms the Israeli public, and it is our responsibility to protect the public via intensive parliamentary work.”

A Yesh Atid spokeswoman said “these incidents speak for themselves” and that the party will “continue to be considerate and sensitive to members of all parties when they need mutual support.”

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