Coalition, opposition MKs attack Yacimovich for strict attendance rules

Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich institutes a required attendance rule on policy and budget votes.

June 25, 2013 14:01
4 minute read.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich presents her red line, May 7, 2013

Yacimovich presents her red line 300. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

The coalition turned its ire to opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) and her policy not to offset MK absences on Tuesday, after the Prawer Bill regulating Beduin land claims in the Negev passed its first reading by a margin of only three votes the night before.

Meanwhile, in an open act of rebellion against Yacimovich, MK Erel Margalit (Labor) said he will offset the absences of Yesh Atid MK Karin Alharrar, who recently gave birth, calling his party leader’s perfect attendance policy inhumane.

Last week, Yacimovich instituted no-offsetting policy on budget votes. 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.

A senior Likud Beytenu source said party ministers suggested a strategy to counter Yacimovich’s strategy: Support fewer opposition bills in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, unless they are able to offer something in return, such as offsetting or pro-coalition votes.

Education Minister Shai Piron (Yesh Atid) wrote an impassioned Facebook post on Tuesday morning criticizing Yacimovich.

“How do you know that politics have a bad influence on you, blurring your values? When you – without doubting yourself – can speak in big words but behave inappropriately and unfairly,” he wrote.

Piron continued, saying that he valued Yacimovich for her battles for justice and equality, many of which succeeded in improving people’s lives.

The education minister added that last week he was taken to the hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack, and Labor wouldn’t offset him then, either.

He commended MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) and Shas MKs who agreed to do so when he was resting.

“Labor won’t do that. They’re worried about housewives, cashiers, rights of the weak, but they want Alharrar to immediately come to the Knesset in her wheelchair. This hurts, and mostly, it is disappointing,” Piron concluded.

Later Tuesday, Yacimovich took to Facebook to point out that 25 coalition MKs were missing from Monday night’s vote.

“We are continuing our attack! The ‘new politics’ government declared war on 99 percent of Israelis, and everyone is hurt,” she wrote. “Housewives, the selfemployed, workers, the elderly, students, everyone. Yesh Atid’s and Likud’s campaign promises are a joke at our expense.”

The opposition’s role is to be an alternative to the government, she added, and can reverse budget cuts with hard work and determination.

MK Michal Biran (Labor), a close Yacimovich ally, accused the coalition of using Alharrar’s condition to cover up its inadequacies.

“Last night, there were only 43 coalition MKs in the Knesset.

They were panicking that they couldn’t bring in enough MKs, because the coalition is crumbling,” Biran told Army Radio.

“This is their problem, not ours.

The opposition is winning.”

Margalit, who ran in the last Labor leadership race, saw things differently, writing a letter to Yacimovich pointing out that Alharrar has muscular dystrophy and gave birth to her first child this month, and the opposition refused to offset her in votes.

“This is unacceptable to me,” Margalit wrote. “There is a political side and a human side. A woman who gave birth, especially one in MK Alharrar’s condition, needs to rest. She doesn’t have to come to work [so soon] and it doesn’t matter if she works in the post office or in a bank or in the Knesset.”

The Labor MK said his party fights for women’s rights, and should not them to this new mother.

“Is this the message we’re giving women? You can’t give birth unless it’s during the Knesset recess?” he asked.

Margalit concluded by saying that, despite Yacimovich’s instructions, he plans to offset Alharrar’s absences in the coming week.

“I will fight this bad budget in every way possible, but I cannot allow this battle harm any woman or her rights,” he wrote.

Yacimovich’s chief of staff Amit Ben-Tzur wrote back to Margalit saying that he doesn’t understand the letter, and that Labor MK Eitan Cabel offset Alharrar on Monday night.

Ben-Tzur also sent Margalit a copy of a letter Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog sent MK Ofer Shelah, his counterpart in Yesh Atid, explaining that party policy is not to allow offsetting on budget votes, not all votes.

“It is no secret that we thing this [draft 2013-14] budget harms the Israeli public, and it is our basic responsibility to protect the public with intensive parliamentary work,” Herzog wrote. “Of course, this isn’t a personal decision about one MK or another in the coalition, and we wish a speedy recover to all sick members of any faction in the house and are happy when they give birth and wish them mazel tov.”

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