The Knesset .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset began its recess early Thursday morning as an opposition filibuster fizzled out after only 19 hours.
The opposition registered over ten days of speeches about amendments they wanted made to a bill allowing prisons to force-feed prisoners on hunger strike and another that would allow a minister or deputy minister from each party to resign from the Knesset so a new MK could take his or her place.
However, the coalition threatened to use article 98 in the Knesset guidelines, which allows it to “establish debate procedure” – meaning decide how long the discussion could be – forcing the opposition to compromise.
The final compromise reached Wednesday evening between coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) and Zionist Union faction chairwoman Merav Michaeli was that Wednesday’s plenum meeting, which began at 11 a.m., could only go on until 4 p.m. Thursday, but the opposition could decide to cut it short at any time with an hour-and-a-half warning for each vote on the two contentious bills. During that hour and a half, the coalition would have time to call anyone who left the Knesset to come back and vote.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) took advantage of the time to rail against the coalition.
Referring to a comment by MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) that a bulldozer should be sent to the High Court instead of Bet El, Herzog said the bulldozer should be raising the government.
“This government does nothing and its ministers threaten IDF soldiers and our prime minister is boycotted by most of our friends in the world,” Herzog stated. “This is a government of nothing; it’s a governmental farce.”
Herzog listed the ways in which he said the government “is not functioning and does nothing: The gas deal was stopped by the public; the American secretary of state is skipping Israel [in his visit to the region]; 2015 is almost over and there is no budget; the cost of living and housing is crazy.”
“We will continue doing everything so that the government…that abandons the security and economy of the citizens of Israel will come to an end in the next [Knesset] session,” he concluded.
Like many all-nighters in the Knesset, the plenum meeting was peppered with humorous moments.
Knesset Economics Committee chairman Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) complained Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky is a “hoarder,” because he wants every bill that enters the Knesset to go to his panel.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett made a play on the Hebrew word for “hoarder,” which also means “hamster,” saying “people call me that, too, I have that look.”
During the evening, Bennett joined Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Zionist Union MKs Tzipi Livni and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin on the Knesset cafeteria’s balcony to eat some hummus brought in from east Jerusalem.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein joined them, and asked to turn the meal into a celebration of Kulanu MK Tali Ploskov’s birthday.
“I’m not singing to you because I like you,” Edelstein quipped.
MK Bennie Begin (Likud) was spotted walking around the Knesset with a large pillow, Cabel fell asleep in the plenum, and MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) napped on a couch in the lounge behind the plenum, covered in what appeared to be a white sheet. Photos of Zandberg appeared on social media, leading someone to ask her on twitter if she brought sheets from home. Zandberg responded that MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) covered her with a tablecloth from the cafeteria.
MK Oren Hazan (Likud) let MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) wear his suit jacket, further fueling rumors that have appeared in gossip columns about the two single lawmakers.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin returned to the Knesset after a break in a green polo-shirt, which earned the reaction from Deputy Knesset Speaker Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union): “Look at yourselves – tired, bleary-eyed, dragging MKs and ministers in in the middle of the night to pass the law. Ministers are here in pajamas!” Levin responded: “These are not my pajamas.”
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev posted photos on Facebook at 5:56 a.m., several of which featured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chatting in the lounge behind the plenum, with the caption “still voting.”
The opposition cut its speeches short long before 4 p.m., with Edelstein closing the meeting and the Knesset’s summer session shortly after 6 a.m.
The Knesset’s winter session begins on October 12, but some committees will remain active and MKs will be back to vote on the budget’s first reading on August 31.