Inside a strange week in the Knesset

A few tidbits from the latest week in the life of the 61-seat coalition, from Kara’s convenient collapse to the MK who isn’t here to make friends, and the books Likudniks use to pass the time.

Likud MK Amir Ohana reads during a debate in the Knesset plenum  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Likud MK Amir Ohana reads during a debate in the Knesset plenum
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 61-seat coalition continued to take its toll on the MKs who had to sit in the plenum for long hours to vote and were prohibited from pairing off with anyone from the other side because of the stiff competition. But the long hours and the political pressures brought on quite a few unusual and unexpected occurrences.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was spotted laughing with his presumed top competitor, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. The word “porno” was thrown around regularly, as its censorship was the most talked-about bill for days. It was a strange week in the Knesset.
For example, Wednesday’s plenum meeting was cut short when Communications Minister Ayoub Kara felt pain in his chest and collapsed. Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi, a medical doctor, rushed to help Kara, while Netanyahu followed them to the lounge behind the plenum to check how Kara was doing. The minister was taken to the hospital, and in the end he was fine.
But there’s something going on with Kara these days that apparently led to the “mini nervous breakdown,” as his chief of staff called it. Army Radio has been reporting on alleged corruption involving Kara abusing his influence on the mail service, first to get jobs for his relatives, and then to mail Rosh Hashanah cards to thousands of Likud members for free. Kara’s chief of staff called the allegations lies.
Kara has a history of passing out at politically convenient times. Back in 2015, when the government was being formed, Netanyahu kept his cards close to his chest when it came to which Likudniks would become ministers. Kara was one of the many hopefuls, but when he found out he would not be getting a portfolio, he collapsed in the Knesset. At that time, just like now, the coalition had 61 seats, and Kara’s absence was significant to the voting tally. Soon after, Netanyahu gave him a deputy minister position, and Kara, the government’s only Druse minister, celebrated by sacrificing goats.
With serious allegations in the air, the goats of Daliat al-Carmel are probably safe this time.
FANS OF reality TV are probably familiar with the mid-season surprise character. Someone new comes to the house or the island to stir up drama between the contestants, who may have been getting too comfortable.
Knesset members, meet your new colleague: MK Robert Tivaev of the Zionist Union.
Tivaev became a Kadima lawmaker in 2009. When that party imploded, he took the side of new leader Shaul Mofaz and not former leader Tzipi Livni, which meant he was left out of the next Knesset after the 2013 election. Then he joined the Labor Party, but did not get high enough on the Zionist Union list, which united Labor with the Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua, to get into the Knesset in 2015.
But in the subsequent nearly four years, enough MKs resigned, and now Tivaev is a Zionist Union MK.
There’s one important detail, though: Tivaev quit the Labor Party. He has no confidence in its current leader, Avi Gabbay, whom he disparaged publicly and continues to deride, even though he’s occupying a Labor seat in the Knesset.
And Tivaev does not feel committed to voting with the opposition. Last week, Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson punished Tivaev for pairing off with a coalition MK on a bill where he could have been the deciding vote in favor of the opposition.
In Monday’s Zionist Union faction meeting, the Soviet-born Tivaev seemed to accuse his fellow MKs of bigotry, asking them “Do you think I should go back to Russia?” And all said no.
Then, he asked: “Do you think I received anything in exchange for what happened with the vote last week?” Only MK Michal Biran said yes.
But some in the Zionist Union thought this was a trap that Tivaev had planted for them, and told reporters that he had been recording them.
Tivaev took to the plenum stage to defend himself: “Ten minutes later, I got phone calls from all of the media with the simple question of whether I recorded the faction meeting.... I never record anyone.... This is the problem of the Zionist Union faction. If someone doesn’t want to accept criticism, then don’t accept it, but I am going to be critical.”
Tivaev added: “Likudniks say I’m with them, and I’m not. Don’t use me as a tool in the coalition’s game, just as I ask not to use me as a tool in the opposition’s game.”
Then, he accused Gabbay, Hasson and Livni of being Likud plants in the Zionist Union. Livni is a former Likud MK and Hasson led the Likud youth.
As they say in the world of reality TV, Tivaev is not here to make friends.
ON MONDAY, Netanyahu told Likud MKs to prepare themselves for long hours in the plenum by bringing “big books and empty bladders” to the plenum. An informal poll of some Likudniks told us what they’re reading, and some were very on-brand.
MK Yehudah Glick is known for trying to make the debates in the Knesset less hostile and showing a friendly face to all. He is reading In God’s Name by Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, a book about improving the culture of debate in our society.
MK Amir Ohana has been reading free market economists Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose, about the relationship between personal freedom and economic regulations. Also at Ohana’s Knesset seat is the very thick tome Sovereignty Over the Old City of Jerusalem, by Jacques Paul Gauthier. He was spotted alternating between the two.
MK Anat Berko prefers reading articles to books while in the Knesset, including those from the international policy think tank the Gatestone Institute.
And Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was reading a book about online marketing called #Share by Naftali Bar Natan.
In recent weeks, Netanyahu has been spotted reading On the Future: Prospects for Humanity by Martin Rees. The book is about the future of science, and his spokesman even showed journalists passages he highlighted about robotics.
While taking this informal poll of Likud MKs, The Jerusalem Post discovered that Netanyahu actually spotted Water and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz reading the book, and borrowed it from him.
Until he can finish his own book, Steinitz has moved on to Lessons in Perspective, a Hebrew-language novel by his sister, Michal Steinitz.
With all the madcap mishaps keeping them in the plenum for long hours, the MKs in the Likud and other parties will probably need even more reading material for the coming weeks.