Netanyahu's Government Suffers Embarrassing No-confidence Vote Defeat

Government loses motion 54-53, although loss is only symbolic as 61 MKs are needed to bring about new election.

Benjamin Netanyahu and ultra-Orthodox MKs at the Knesset in November 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

The coalition was left embarrassed after losing a no-confidence vote in the Knesset Monday, although it fell short of the number required to topple the government.

Fifty-four Knesset members supported the motion submitted by Yesh Atid, while 53 opposed it. Because the motion required the support of at least 61 MKs, the opposition had to settle for a symbolic victory. It is the first time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fragile coalition failed to amass a majority for a no-confidence vote, although the current government has already lost five votes on legislation issues in less than a year.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said Monday that coalition chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), who is supposed to recruit a majority for various votes, went abroad without arranging that an opposition MK would also not vote, as is customary. Last week, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis, as well as MK Oren Hazan (both Likud), were absent from the vote on a coalition bill to lower the work age in Israel to 13, causing it to fall.

Meanwhile, in a speech to the Knesset, Netanyahu criticized Joint Arab List MK Osama Saadia. “We find ourselves in a wave of terror attacks, and I expect all members of this house to condemn these wicked acts,” he said. “Just two hours ago, Saadia was interviewed and refused to condemn the murder of the Henkin family [two settlers who were killed in the West Bank last October], and said that he differentiates between the murder of civilians in Tel Aviv and the West Bank. Terror is terror, and it does not matter if it is perpetrated in Jerusalem, Ra’anana, Hebron, Tel Aviv or Duma.”

Netanyahu added: “Terror is not determined according to the identity of its perpetrators and their goals. It is invalid by virtue of its very substance. I expect all MKs on all benches of the house, from MK Saadia to MK [Bezalel] Smotrich [Habayit Hayehudi], to condemn terror.”

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) responded, “I completely recognize that we have to fight terror without compromise and to strike at its roots, and there is no doubt we are all united in condemning it. The question is how your government is coping with this terror. Regretfully, it is coping with it in failure and weakness.”