Mayhem Erupts in Israel's Knesset as Opposition Lawmakers Interrupt Bennett's Speech on State Budget

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, on Monday
Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, on MondayCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Opposition lawmakers interrupted Monday Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after forcing a special Knesset session on the proposed state budget and demanding that the prime minister attend it.  

Moreover, because opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu arrived late, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy had to halt the session, since the law requires that the opposition leader speak at such sessions.

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Responding to the opposition’s claim that the budget bill is “antisocial,” Bennett said the budget, which has passed the first of three required votes, “is the most social one seen here in years.”

“The passage of the budget is something that hasn’t happened in Israel since March 2018,” he added. “For three and a half years, you didn’t manage to pass a budget, because every time, it was taken hostage for political purposes.”

The lawmakers who were removed from the hall for interrupting Bennett included David Amsalem, Galit Distal Atbaryan, Ofir Katz and Patin Mula of Likud, Itamar Ben-Gvir of Religious Zionism and Moshe Abutbul of Shas.

Bennett used the occasion to survey what he considered some of his government’s successes and explain some of the pro in the budget. “The great news is exiting the delta wave without lockdowns,” he said, referring to the current coronavirus variant. 

As for the budget, he said, its achievements include an extra two billion shekels ($620 million) for health care, progress on a planned subway in the greater Tel Aviv region, reforms that would lower the cost of living and break the rabbinate’s kashrut monopoly, aid for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and efforts to fight crime in the Arab community.

Netanyahu, who spoke after Bennett, assailed him. “He may hold the title of prime minister, but he’s not the real prime minister,” Netanyahu said. “It’s all pretend. Bennett has no mandate.”

“There’s never before been anything like this in the history of the state: After three months in office, a sitting prime minister is teetering on the edge of the electoral threshold like a trembling leaf in the wind,” he continued. “The public is unequivocally expressing no-confidence in Bennett, because he has no ideology.

“In this government, everyone does as he pleases. There’s no prime minister here. We see this in the new reality show, ‘The race to the Muqata,’” Netanyahu added, referring to the Ramallah office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is often referred to by his nickname, Abu Mazen. “This fawning race to Abu Mazen has resuscitated him.”

By law, the Knesset is entitled to demand the prime minister’s attendance at one debate per month if at least 40 MKs sign the request. The signatures to force this debate were organized by opposition lawmaker Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism). 

The rules allocate unlimited speaking time to the prime minister and the opposition leader plus a combined total of 60 minutes for all other lawmakers who want to speak. At the end of the debate, the Knesset votes on the position presented by the prime minister.

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