Knesset committee nixes pensioner split

Sharoni vows to appeal, sue MKs who voted against Gaydamak merger, trades barbs with GIL members.

sharoni 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
sharoni 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Gil Pensioners Party's would-be breakaway faction made dubious history Wednesday when it became the first such faction in the 60 years of the Knesset to have its request to split off rejected. Furious, Gil rebel leader MK Moshe Sharoni promised to appeal the decision to the High Court of Justice and to personally sue each lawmaker who voted against his faction in the stormy House Committee meeting. Committee Chairman David Tal (Kadima) emphasized at the meeting that there was no precedent for turning down such a request - but in the end, the split was rejected by a vote of 13-seven with one abstention. The establishment of a Knesset faction that was slated to bear the name "Justice for Pensioners - Social Justice" following its unification with businessman Arkadi Gaydamak's Social Justice movement was ultimately rejected because of that alliance. During last week's House Committee meeting to vote on the split, Sharoni rescinded his initial split request after certain clauses of his agreement with Gaydamak were deemed by Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein to be "apparently in violation of the law." But even the re-tooled contract with Gaydamak - and Elstein said at Wednesday's meeting that the problematic clauses had been removed - was too much for many legislators. "If we approve this split, we approve the buying of a party with money," said MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor). Sharoni, however, argued that Knesset regulations did not allow committee members to consider factors in approving a split beyond the basic qualifications that the rebel faction contain at least three MKs and be made up of at least one-third of the original party's MKs. The wording of the regulation is such that the question of whether or not the committee is meant to act as a rubber stamp in the event of party breakups - a role that it has taken until now - is unclear. Likud and National Union/National Religious Party lawmakers argued that the moral basis for rejecting a would-be faction, such as the question of allowing Gaydamak to gain representation in the Knesset without participating in an election, had not been a consideration in past votes. MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) argued that the committee had already approved much "more dirty" split agreements. The meeting was marked by exceptionally juvenile discourse, particularly between remaining members of Gil and Sharoni. "You're an idiot," MK Yitzhak Ziv called out to Sharoni, who responded with the equally creative "you're an idiot". At another point, Gil faction chairman MK Yitzhak Galanti said: "Sharoni wants envelopes" - a reference to recent allegations against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to which Sharoni responded by calling Galanti "infantile." Following these, and other, heated exchanges, MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) asked to finish the vote quickly in order to "quickly leave this hell."