Monday, January 18, 2010

Stormy Knesset: Coalition returns fire - will oppose every private bill of the Opposition

(Ynet).After the opposition held a vote of no confidence – which goes against Knesset custom of avoiding such votes while the prime minister is abroad – the coalition threatens retaliation. "The opposition will pay dearly for this," they promise, and make their target clear.

On Monday the Knesset discussed the no-confidence motion submitted by the opposition, as happens every week. But according to an old custom, no-confidence votes are avoided when the prime minister is away on government business.

This time the opposition, led by Kadima, decided to break the unwritten rules despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to Germany. Senior Kadima figures explained that this was no more than a response to the "systematic and ongoing trampling of the opposition and the Knesset by the coalition."

Coalition members took part in the discussion, but boycotted the vote. The initial vote received a majority of 34 MKs, and the second vote got a 32-MK majority. Not a single MK opposed the votes, but since an absolute majority of 61 MKs is needed to bring down the government, the vote remained irrelevant.

However, it seems that the opposition's decision is just the opening volley of a protracted battle. While the opposition intends to do away with the "offset" custom, according to which the same number of opposition and coalition members make themselves absent from Knesset votes in order to retain a relative balance, the coalition intends to "punish" opposition Knesset members in a place that hurts – private bill proposals.

Ynet has learned that senior coalition members have decided to vote against some of the bills proposed by the opposition, even if the bills have won support till now. "They'll pay dearly," the coalition promises.

Coalition Chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) had said earlier, "The behavior of the opposition, headed by Kadima, is a serious breach of Knesset custom. We won't break the rules of the game and we won't boycott the Knesset, but we refuse to take part in Kadima's theater of the absurd."