A scene in the Knesset before it votes for an early election on April 9.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market is only a five-minute drive from the Knesset at night when there is no traffic.
It is commonplace on long nights of voting that MKs leave to the market for dinner and even a bit of entertainment. But Wednesday night, like never before, the Knesset became the shuk.
MKs from the opposition described how Likud MKs and advisers to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped them at every turn to haggle and ask their price for joining the coalition and granting Netanyahu his coveted 61st MK.
Backbench MKs from the Likud reported the opposite: Opposition MKs attempted to woo them to their side, making promises to them if they would just go to the washroom during the vote on dispersing the Knesset, preventing it from passing.
Worried about the Likud backbenchers defecting, Likud activists tried to strengthen them. When new MKs Uzi Dayan, Kati Shitrit and Shlomo Karhi entered the Knesset cafeteria, they were serenaded by activists, who sang “ha’ikar lo lefahed klal” (the most important thing is not to fear at all).
Labor MK Stav Shaffir – whose party leader, Avi Gabbay, considered a deal with Netanyahu for 24 hours before telling her – expressed pride that she is known for being an MK who cannot be bought.
Borrowing a trick from Netanyahu, she held up a poster from the Knesset podium as a visual aide during her speech, until Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein scolded her.
The poster depicted the ministers around Netanyahu with the heads of rhinoceroses, an allusion to a Hebrew idiom about blindly following the herd. The sign accused the ministers of doing whatever Netanyahu wants, without voicing objection or morality.
The most popular MK at the Knesset was Avigdor Liberman, the main object of Netanyahu’s wooing. He was not in the parliament most of the day – but when he came to meet with House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel, he was quickly thronged by dozens of reporters and activists.
It must have been culture shock for Engel, who has to deal with his own polarization in Washington. But perhaps he should be thankful to the Knesset members for saving him a visit to the shuk.
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