MK votes 6 days after giving birth to give coalition majority

The coalition's law failed in Knesset even though Yamina MK Shirly Pinto came to the plenum to vote.

 Yamina MK Shirly Pinto arrives at the Knesset plenum with her baby six days after giving birth, December 15, 2021. (photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)
Yamina MK Shirly Pinto arrives at the Knesset plenum with her baby six days after giving birth, December 15, 2021.
(photo credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)

Yamina MK Shirley Pinto raced to the Knesset plenum with her six-day-old daughter in tow on Wednesday afternoon to participate in key votes.

Pinto had expressed a willingness to come to the Knesset whenever needed, because without her the coalition had a majority of only one MK, 60-59. Upon her entrance into the plenum, she was immediately embraced by coalition MKs.

She held her baby as she voted. Pinto told the plenum she would have rather rested at home like a normal mother, but she felt she had to come.

“I came due to the shameful behavior of the opposition,” Pinto said. “Many of you members of the opposition told me you did not believe it was ethical to reject my request to pair off, but you ended up being led astray by your commander, who commanded you to act in an inhumane manner that lacked any class.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also blamed Pinto’s arrival on opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who did not permit his MKs to pair off with her.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset plenum, December 15, 2021. (credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset plenum, December 15, 2021. (credit: NOAM MOSKOVITZ/KNESSET)

“The opposition leader’s insistence on not pairing off with Pinto is a new nadir in the behavior of one human to another and in how a new mother is treated,” Bennett wrote on Twitter. “When I saw Shirley, I got angry, because a mother needs time to recover.”

The coalition still ended up losing on a vote on cellphone antennas in apartment buildings, because Ra’am (United Arab List) leader Mahmoud Abbas voted with the opposition by mistake. The bill, which passed by a 60-59 vote, was only on its preliminary reading.

Pinto was summoned after Yamina MK Abir Kara announced that he would boycott voting in the Knesset to protest a decision by Bennett’s coronavirus cabinet to require a green pass to enter a shopping mall. Kara headed an organization of independent workers and once owned a fast-food outlet in a mall.

Kara later returned to the plenum, but Pinto had to stay there, with her baby, because Ra’am MK Waleed Taha left with his own protest.

Taha complained that Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked was preventing the passage of his bill that would hook up thousands of illegally built Arab homes to the national electricity grid. He wrote on Twitter that Shaked lied about the cost of the bill when she told the Knesset plenum that it would cost each family NIS 200,000.

Ra’am officials later threatened a coalition crisis if the bill would be changed. But in an interview with Channel 13, Abbas said he was confident gaps could be bridged.

“Not everything is a coalition crisis, but this bill goes to our soul,” he said.

Coalition sources later said it was a mistake to summon Pinto to the Knesset instead of just accepting losses in the votes.

Rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, who has sparred with Pinto, accused her of using her baby to play politics. Women’s groups expressed outrage that she was compelled to come to vote.

Pinto gave birth on Thursday night at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital to her second child. She revealed to Channel 13 on Tuesday night that the baby is deaf, just like her, her husband, her son and her parents.

Meretz MK Mossi Raz announced on Wednesday that he is planning to propose a law to institutionalize maternity leave for MKs, during which time they will be replaced in their role by the next MK on their party’s list.

“MKs who give birth deserve the time they need to heal and adjust, just like every new parent,” Raz tweeted. “[At the same time,] the public that voted them in still deserves representation in Knesset.”

Sarah Ben-Nun contributed to this report