Yuval Steinitz speaks to 'The Jerusalem Post,' March 15, 2015.
(photo credit: SAPIR PERETZ)
The opposition’s attempt to filibuster a vote turned humorous overnight Monday as the Knesset stayed up past midnight discussing a bill to postpone the deadline for passing a post-election budget.
The bill proposes to delay the requirement to pass the state budget from this week to November 19 and to have a two-year budget for 2015 and 2016, which would really be a 13-month budget because of the late date on which it would be passed.
The amendment was eventually approved by a vote of 56-54 after 1:30 a.m., but not before a series of parliamentary antics from both opposition and coalition members.
The opposition submitted thousands of objections to the bill – potentially adding over 60 hours’ worth of debate to the bill – although in reality they only used about five.
With just 30 speeches left to go, the opposition canceled the last dozen, leaving the coalition very little time to gather enough MKs in the plenum to pass the bill.
The coalition found itself in a conundrum, appearing to be tied with the opposition ahead of the vote.
Economy Minister Arye Deri came to the rescue, delivering a long-winded and rambling speech.
Despite several requests by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to conclude his address, the Shas politician explained how – like the budget – the 17 of Tamuz fast was postponed to Sunday this year, because the Hebrew date fell on a Saturday, and the only fast that is not postponed if it falls on the Sabbath is Yom Kippur.
“It’s good that people call me Machlouf. I encourage it.
Many people have asked me what is the source of the name ‘Machlouf,’” Deri said, referring to his middle name, which he began to use in the last election campaign to highlight his Moroccan roots.
“Some say it comes from Michael, but I think it is its own name. How do you write Machlouf, with a chaf or a chet? There are debates about it, and I am glad and encourage them,” he said.
Edelstein joked that this is one of the most important speeches he has heard Deri give.
Elsewhere, a coalition member managed to wake up National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was not feeling well, and went home to Mevaseret Zion to sleep without finding someone in the opposition to offset his absence.
A bleary-eyed Steinitz shuffled in to the plenum attired in slippers and a polo shirt, attracting the derision of the opposition, who labeled the outfit his pajamas.
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) tweeted that his bedtime look was “endearing.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog wrote a play-by-play of the night’s events. “Drama in the plenum,” the Zionist Union leader tweeted. “Arye Deri gave a (very) long speech with a goal of wasting time, out of concern that the coalition does not have a majority for the vote. This is the second week in a row that the coalition is being embarrassed.
The Netanyahu day camp is considering taking a break until the end of the summer.”
After the budget vote passed, the Knesset continued the night’s agenda, including transferring the responsibility for rabbinical courts from the Justice Ministry to the Religious Services Ministry.
As the debate raged, MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) found a piano in the Knesset, giving a virtuoso performance of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which MK Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) filmed while humming and whistling along.
Back inside the chamber, coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi grabbed Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman’s hat and wore it, to the glee of many MKs who took pictures and tweeted about it.
Business finally concluded around 4 a.m. after an entire night’s worth of entertainment for insomniac viewers of the Knesset Channel and hardworking parliamentary reporters.
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