Absurd might be a term used to describe events in Knesset on Wednesday 15 Teves 5774 regarding the vote on a bill sponsored by MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman.
The bill seeks to safeguard Yerushalayim and if passed into law, it would compel support of 80 of the 120 MKs in order for the prime minister to negotiate a deal with the PA (Palestinian Authority) regarding Yerushalayim. Litzman explained that the prime minister has promised repeatedly to safeguard the Jewish capital so the bill is in line with his position.
The bill would prohibit negotiators from raising the topic of Jerusalem for as long as two-thirds of Knesset hasn’t approved the move. Litzman feels that promises of protecting Yerushalayim must be backed up and the bill would safeguard the Jewish capital as talks between Israel and the PA continue.
The fact the bill would protect Yerushalayim was of less significance than the fact it was a bill presented by the opposition. The prime minister was also aware that his senior coalition partner, Yesh Atid, opposed the bill. Being that ideology rarely has anything to do with reality in Knesset, coalition members walked out for the vote.
The coalition announced voting discipline would be in place for the bill and this resulted in members of Likud and Bayit Yehudi walking out of the plenum to absent themselves from the vote. The only coalition member to remain and vote his conscience, defying coalition discipline by doing so, was Likud’s Deputy Speaker Moshe Feiglin. Even Prime Minister Netanyahu absented himself from the vote as did Bayit Yehudi ministers and MKs including Naftali Bennett. The bill was defeated in a 51-12 vote.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni explained the government opposes the bill. She called Litzman’s bill a cynical attempt to use the place that is important to Jews around the world to embarrass the coalition. She added the bill is dangerous and that “Jerusalem is not just the capital and the connection to the city is not just one of religion. No one party has a monopoly on the bond to the city.”
She told lawmakers if the bill is passed it would result in an immediate halt in ongoing negotiations with the PA. Livni added “the citizens of the State of Israel prefer a strong government that will not isolate the nation. Most citizens of Israel want the negotiations to continue.”
The vote was an open one, a roll call of each name by the speaker, compelling the MKs to absent themselves. Yesh Atid MK Peninah Tamanu-Shata defied party leader Yair Lapid by not opposing the bill, opting to abstain. Party colleagues are confident that Lapid will punish her severely as he did in the past to MK Dr. Adi Koll, who ignored Lapid’s directive in a vote.
Feiglin did not remain silent and he blames members of his party and the coalition for enabling Livni to negotiate on Yerushalayim. “The seats of Bayit Yehudi and Likud were vacant during the vote”. Feiglin added that he is well aware the bill by Litzman was intended to embarrass the coalition but he nevertheless felt compelled to support it to protect the future of Yerushalayim.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)