Likud denies it tried to shut down the Knesset

MK Orly Levy-Abecassis asks to finalize divorce from Labor-Meretz

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu failed to restore the 61-lawmaker majority he won in 2015 and lost in 2019. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu failed to restore the 61-lawmaker majority he won in 2015 and lost in 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party vigorously denied reports on Tuesday that it had pushed to shut down the Knesset due to the coronavirus outbreak a day after its swearing-in.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein convened a representative from each of the eight Knesset factions in two rounds on Tuesday. In the meetings, the party representatives fought over the makeup of committees in the Knesset that have yet to be formed.
The first meeting with Likud, Blue and White, Joint List and Shas representatives ended in a clash. Likud wants equal representation, while Blue and White wants its 61-58 bloc advantage to apply in the committees.
“We offered to build small committees, as the Health Ministry decided, with no more than 10 people, and they declined our offer because they want to have a majority,” Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar told The Jerusalem Post. “This is against the law and against the directives, and they don’t care. They don’t care about the people's health. They only care about their hatred for Benjamin Netanyahu. This is very, very crazy.”
Blue and White and Joint List MKs said Zohar called for shutting down the Knesset or for holding meetings outdoors. He denied the charges.
Shas representative MK Yoav Bentzur said he was the one who called for shutting down the Knesset.
“As long as the Knesset cannot protect its workers and MKs, it should not put them in danger,” Bentzur said.     
Blue and White MK Ofer Shelah said the Likud should not be allowed to close down the Knesset, because there needs to be a Finance Committee to approve critical assistance to those who lost their jobs and a committee on the coronavirus to deal with the problems caused by the crisis.
“All the Likud cares about is that there will not be a majority against Bibi, and it’s shameful,” he said.
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi said Netanyahu was using the coronavirus as a reason to shut down the Knesset.  
“The pro-Netanyahu bloc wishes to shut down the Knesset, saying we have a COVID-19 [situation],” he said.
Until there is an agreement, the committees will not be formed. But Edelstein said if an agreement is not reached between the parties, he would bring the decisions to a vote in the Knesset plenum. If that happens, there would be a majority against the Likud, and the committees would be formed to reflect that.
Meanwhile, MK Orly Levy-Abecassis on Tuesday filed a request with Edelstein to break off from the seven-MK Labor-Gesher-Meretz faction and serve as a one-person faction.
This would be permitted by law because Gesher is an individual party. Normally, a third of a faction is required for a split. The request will only come to a vote when a Knesset House Committee is formed.
A source close to Labor leader Amir Peretz criticized her behavior.
“There is a lot to be said about her, but we will take the high road and just say she is a serial thief of mandates," the source said.
Hagay Hacohen contributed to this report.