New coalition chairman Bitan cracks the whip

Likud MK went straight to work in his first days as coalition chairman, sending a letter Tuesday telling MKs truancy will not be tolerated.

David Bitan
MK David Bitan (Likud) went straight to work on his first day as coalition chairman, sending MKs a letter on Tuesday telling them that truancy will not be tolerated.
Bitan also cracked the whip on “offsetting,” the practice by which a coalition member’s absence during a vote is canceled out by an opposition member who is not present either.
Bitan’s letter detailed the new rules for the coalition. First, offsets can only happen if authorized by the coalition chairman or the Likud’s manager in the Knesset (a non-elected position, currently filled by Aliza Barashi).
If ministers skip votes without getting permission for their absence, their ministries’ bills will not go to a vote.
In addition, government bills will not be brought to a vote unless the relevant minister is present, a major change from the standard practice, in which ministers take turns being the one in the plenum and fill in for one another in presenting legislation.
On Monday, several ministers were absent, having not yet returned from The Jerusalem Post’s annual conference in New York, which took place on Sunday. At least one, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, did not report an offset to Bitan.
In the Knesset’s winter session, there were cases of Likud MKs who did not participate in voting and also did not find an offset. MK Oren Hazan was punished for repeatedly doing so, and MKs David Amsalem and Avraham Neguise stayed out of the plenum as part of a planned protest on the issue of Ethiopian aliya.
In an interview last week, Bitan warned that he would not tolerate such personal rebellions.
“There are MKs who think they’re their own party, but they were elected as part of a party and they have to respect factional and governmental decisions,” he said.
Bitan promised to avoid the embarrassments the coalition has faced nearly a dozen times in the last year, in which their proposals were voted down or opposition legislation and motions won votes.
“I will not bring up bills if I’m not certain I have a majority, so we don’t look foolish,” he said.