Likud MK Reuven Rivlin is due to be elected Knesset speaker Monday afternoon, but Arab Knesset factions are objecting to the timing of the vote. On Monday the Arab sector commemorates Land Day, marking violent protests in 1976 over government land policies in which six Arabs were killed.
MKs from Arab factions are expected to be absent Monday from the vote, after failing to convince acting speaker Michael Eitan that it should be rescheduled to take place on Tuesday.
Rivlin, the only candidate for speaker in the newly elected Knesset, also served in the post from 2003 to 2006.
Eitan claimed that there was no precedent for delaying a Knesset vote as a result of an event "that is subject to controversy." He also sent a message to the heads of the Arab parliamentary factions, indicating that his decision was made after consultation with Rivlin, outgoing speaker Dalia Itzik and Knesset legal adviser Nurit Elstein.
Eitan explained that if the requested delay became a practice, "the work schedule of the Knesset would be dragged out, according to the political whim of any group of members seeking a chance to protest by stopping the work of parliament."
Said MK Hanna Swaid, head of the predominantly Arab Hadash faction in the Knesset: "We didn't seek to stop the functioning of the Knesset or to change its agenda. We simply sought to delay the important act (of electing a speaker) by one day."
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