shalom simhon 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Labor "rebels" are contributing to the demise of Israel's political system, Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor) charged Thursday, and they should expect serious punishments.
While the Labor Party has seen its share of rebel MK factions, the most recent grouping has particularly angered Labor officials, who called it "a clear example of political posturing."
The two rebel MKs in question, Shelly Yacimovich and Yoram Marciano, refused to vote in favor of the 2006 State Budget Wednesday as per their party's coalition agreement.
Simhon, who was misclassified as a third "rebel" Labor MK, had actually been granted permission to be absent from the vote due to a prior commitment to the Agritech, the 2006 Agriculture Exhibition.
"Actions like this, which began in the Likud last session, can dissolve party unity," said Simhon, who was angered to have been identified with the rebels. "You cannot be elected on a party slate and then, as your first course of action, vote against the party."
Although Yacimovich and Marciano have been banned from speaking at the Knesset or filing new motions as punishment for their decision, their actions sparked a firestorm in Labor.
"They embarrassed the party," said MK Ephraim Sneh, who added that the party could consider a more serious punishment.
Despite heavy pressure from party members, and a last-minute tongue-lashing from chairman Amir Peretz, Yacimovich and Marciano walked out of the vote to protest what they called "lacking social elements" of the budget.
"I just could not, in my heart, bring myself to vote for this budget," said Yacimovich. "I expect repercussions, and I will handle them as they come."
Marciano added that he was nervous about how he would be treated in the party, but did not regret walking out of the vote.
Peretz took the decision of the two MKs personally, said sources close to the chairman, because he considered them close allies and had relied on them to restore party unity in the past.
Last month, Peretz had sent both Yacimovich and Marciano to speak with veteran Labor MKs who were angered by the party's ministerial lineup.
The displeased MKs had threatened to form their own rebel Labor faction until a key vote over the issue passed in Peretz's favor.