Coalition takes 'humiliating' losses in Knesset votes

Three no-confidence motions pass as Shas boycotts session; Braverman nominated to be Finance Committee chairman.

yoel hasson 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yoel hasson 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Newly appointed coalition chairman Yoel Hasson (Kadima) had a rough day Monday as the government took a beating, outmaneuvered politically in committees in the morning and on the Knesset floor in the evening. But when the dust cleared, the final call was a draw, with the losses for the coalition proving largely symbolic. For the first time during the summer session, the government lost a series of no-confidence votes on the Knesset floor, with three out of the five no-confidence motions presented Monday passing. Although none of the motions received the necessary absolute majority of 61 votes required to bring down the government, the embarrassment to the coalition was clear. The motions - sponsored by Israel Beiteinu, Meretz and Balad - passed the house due, in part, to the conspicuous absence of coalition partner Shas, which disappeared from the session in protest of the nomination of MK Avishay Braverman (Labor) to become chairman of the Finance Committee. Shas had intimated earlier in the day that it would begin to take punitive steps against the coalition should Braverman's appointment receive House Committee approval, which it did in a series of votes Monday. The approval process for Braverman was the starting whistle for the day's embarrassment for the coalition. In a packed morning session of the House Committee, the coalition mustered enough support, even without Shas, to pass Braverman's long-awaited nomination by a vote of 12-8, with members of NU/NRP and Israel Beiteinu abstaining. But a call for a revision and revote soon created chaos in the apparently routine procedure, during a debate in which Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar took jabs at what he termed Hasson's lack of experience as coalition leader. Kadima and Labor opposed the proposal for revision, but at the last minute, MKs Ahmed Tibi (UAL) and Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), who had previously supported the coalition on Braverman's nomination, suddenly changed their vote and supported the revision. They said they had done so in support of the Shas MKs, who claimed they were being discriminated against in the coalition, and as a lesson not to take the Arab parties' support for granted. "We are the reason for making the Labor party sweat these three hours after they have made us sweat for 60 years," quipped Tibi. Their support for the revision, alongside that of the NU/NRP, was enough to call for a revote, which Likud MKs managed to delay until the late afternoon, following British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit to the Knesset. Labor and Kadima were kept biting their nails over the outcome of the vote until the last minute, when Sa'ar announced that the Likud had decided to support Braverman's nomination after all. "The coalition completed the appointments as Kadima promised we would," said Hasson after the vote on Braverman passed. "We see Avishay as a fitting candidate for the job. We will continue dialogue with Shas, whom we see as an important partner." Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.