Center-Left delays Knesset speaker vote to Tuesday

Time is becoming short for Netanyahu to pass necessary laws

 Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy breaking down at the Bundestag in Berlin during his speech on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2022.  (photo credit: BOAZ ARAD)
Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy breaking down at the Bundestag in Berlin during his speech on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2022.
(photo credit: BOAZ ARAD)

The vote to replace Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy with Likud MK Yariv Levin that was supposed to be held on Monday afternoon was postponed until Tuesday morning, marking a small victory for the soon-to-be opposition in its attempt to trip up Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to form a government.

The vote was delayed after Knesset members from the Center-Left threatened to filibuster the vote in the plenum overnight and, at some point, withdraw all speeches and spring a surprise vote to appoint one of its own members to the position of speaker.

The incoming coalition agreed to delay the vote until 10 a.m. on Tuesday to avoid that scenario. In order not to officially close Monday’s plenum meeting, Levy on Monday evening announced a recess until 9 a.m. Tuesday. There will be an hour-long debate and then a vote.

"Mickey Levy continues to disgrace the Knesset in an unprecedented manner."

Likud MKs

Replacing Levy is crucial for the Likud and the rest of the incoming coalition, since it will give it the power to fast-track legislation that the Likud’s partners demanded as preconditions before forming a government.

 Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is seen gesturing alongside Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, on May 9. 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is seen gesturing alongside Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, on May 9. 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government ends December 21. The Knesset’s committees and plenum only operate on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Netanyahu may request and receive an additional four-day extension to form the government, until Sunday, December 25. However, that would not add any days of legislation since there is none between Thursday and Sunday.

The delay thus cut down to five the number of days the incoming coalition has to pass laws.

These include an amendment to the Basic Law: The Government that will enable Shas chairman Arye Deri to serve as a minister despite his suspended jail sentence, following a January plea-bargain to tax offenses; and an amendment of the Police Law so that incoming national security minister and Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir receives broader control over the police.

“The weak Netanyahu thought he would have an easy time forming a government. He will understand very soon how hard it will be, this is just the beginning,” Yesh Atid CEO and opposition coordinator MK Boaz Toporovsky said.

“To establish the weak Netanyahu and his extremist partners’ dark government, they will have to pass a number of corrupt and despicable laws that are going to seriously damage democracy, the rule of law, public trust in elected officials and to the citizens of Israel,” Toporovsky said earlier on Monday.

“We will not let this happen. In the upcoming Knesset and especially in the coming weeks, we will fight with all the parliamentary tools that the Knesset puts at our disposal. We will attend every discussion; we will be in every committee.

"We know the importance of our work. the future of the country is at stake, and we will all work together as a united opposition. We will not allow them to destroy everything that has been built in the country"

MK Boaz Toporovsky

“We know the importance of our work. The future of the country is at stake, and we will all work together as a united opposition. We will not allow them to destroy everything that has been built in the country,” Toporovsky added.

Levy initially scheduled a large number of speeches in the plenum prior to the vote to enable the filibuster. Likud MKs accused him of purposely delaying the vote.

“Mickey Levy continues to disgrace the Knesset in an unprecedented manner,” the party said.

The Likud accused Levy of “not recognizing the citizens of Israel’s democratic choice” and of “attempting to snatch the vote undemocratically like a small child who refuses to part from the playground.”

Yesh Atid MK Merav Ben-Ari and Hadash-Ta’al’s MK Ayman Odeh also put their names forward as candidates for Knesset speaker.

“It is time after nearly 15 years that a woman fills this representative role in Israel’s Knesset,” Ben-Ari said.

Odeh reportedly put his name forward because his party was not consulted on whether it agreed that Ben-Ari would be the opposition’s only candidate.

Next steps for the Knesset

The Knesset Arrangements Committee on Monday morning approved the appointment of Yesh Atid MK Moshe Tur-Paz to become temporary deputy speaker once Levin becomes speaker. The committee also approved United Torah Judaism’s request that MK Yisrael Eichler replace MK Yaakov Tessler as temporary deputy speaker. This means that the five temporary deputy speakers will be MKs Ofir Katz (Likud), Ya’acov Margi (Shas), Matan Kahana (National Unity), Tur-Paz and Eichler.

Yesh Atid's Tuesday appeal

Yesh Atid filed an appeal later on Tuesday to the Knesset attorney-general, lawyer Sagit Afek, demanding that she bar four MKs who would be affected by the Deri law – Netanyahu, Deri and Likud MKs Haim Katz and David Bitan – from voting on it due to a conflict of interest.

The party argued that these MKs’ involvement in the law serves their personal interests, and that there was thus an “inherent, clear and brazen” conflict of interest. This was even more severe since the law in question is a Basic Law, the party argued.

Katz criticized the appeal, arguing that the court clearly stated that Katz was not involved in acts that included moral turpitude or corruption, and therefore the appeal did not apply to him.

“Among all of his failures, it appears that fact-checking is also not Yesh Atid’s strong side,” Katz added.