MK Kol's punishment sparks controversy

Yesh Atid suspends MK from parliamentary activity for abstaining on electoral reform vote, faces accusations of being undemocratic.

Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Yesh Atid)
Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Yesh Atid)
Opposition lawmakers stood up for Yesh Atid's first rebel MK Adi Kol early Thursday morning, after she was punished for voting against her party's electoral reform.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelach suspended Kol from all parliamentary activity after she surprised the party by abstaining in part of the electoral reform bill's first reading.
Kol told Shelach before the vote that she was having doubts about the bill, but did not inform him in advance that she decided not to vote in its favor. On Wednesday night, she became the first rebel in Yesh Atid, a party whose ranks had heretofore been very united.
After her controversial vote, Kol had a heated conversation with Shelach in the back of the plenum and was visibly upset. About 15 minutes later, she sent the following message to the press: "Today, I abstained in the vote on the electoral reform bill. This was a decision that mainly hurt my fellow faction members, and I apologize." Even though the bill passed, Lapid and Shelach removed Kol from chairmanship of the Knesset Public Petitions Committee and from membership of any Knesset committees. In addition, she won't be able to propose bills through the party.
Sources in Yesh Atid expressed discomfort with the decision, saying the party's leadership went too far.
Shelach, however, defended the decision, pointing out that the vote was so important to the coalition that MKs who were abroad flew back to Israel.
"This was a cardinal vote. Coalition discipline isn't about being a dictatorship. There is no coalition without discipline," he told Israel Radio.
Shelach added that electoral reform isn't only a coalition policy, but was part of Yesh Atid's platform in the last election, and Kol campaigned for it.
"Kol even influenced changes in the bill as a member of the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee. She was a partner in this policy. She shouldn't have put personal feelings before the faction," Shelach stated. "When you make a decision as a mature adult to enter politics, you have to accept the rules." As for claims that Yesh Atid behaved undemocratically, Shelach said he does not accept them and that they're politically motivated. In addition, he said he did not tell Kol to make a public apology and that she did so of her own volition.
Kol was unavailable for comment.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said Kol could propose bills via Labor, an offer she made to former Kadima MK Robert Tibayev when she faced a similar punishment in the last Knesset.
In the debate on Referendum Bill, which was next on the Knesset's agenda, Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen called Yesh Atid a dictatorship.
"There is one pleasure Yesh Atid MKs won't have in this Knesset: Speaking freely," MK Itzik Shmuly (Labor) said.
At one point, MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) was removed from the plenum for shouting that he's embarrassed to be in a Knesset with parties that behave like Yesh Atid.
"I couldn't hold back," Gafni said later. "I shouldn't intervene in other parties' decisions, but MK Kol opposed the party line and asked to abstain. They forced her to write an apology and suspended her. The party is like North Korea!" MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) said "once again I agree with MK Gafni. What was done to MK Adi Kol is the height of aggression, and it is no coincidence that it was directed toward a female MK and not a male one." Yesh Atid's punishment for Kol is not unique – it has been used by many parties in past Knessets.
However, if Kol should appeal her punishment to the Knesset House Committee, there is a precedent for it being overturned.
In 2004, Lapid's father's then-justice minister and Shinui leader Yosef Lapid fired then-national infrastructure minister Yosef Paritzky, and the faction suspended him from parliamentary activity. Then Knesset House Committee chairman Ronnie Bar-On said that there cannot be "walking dead" MKs, and that Shinui cannot stop Paritzky from doing what he was was elected to do, serve the public.