In Latest Trouble for Bennett, Israeli Lawmaker Says Won't Vote With Coalition

Lawmaker Michael Biton says he will not support the coalition until he reaches a deal with Israel's Transport Minister over public transport reform, in yet another blow for Bennett's fracturing government

Israeli lawmaker Michael Biton in 2021.
Israeli lawmaker Michael Biton, in 2021.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Israeli lawmaker Michael Biton announced Wednesday that he will no longer vote with the governing coalition, except in no-confidence votes, until he reaches an agreement with Transport Minister Merav Michaeli on public transport reform.

Biton, a member of Kahol Lavan, also said he is freezing the activities of the Knesset Economics Committee, which he chairs.

The move functions as yet another blow to Israel's wobbly coalition, which, with 60 seats, does not have a majority. However, Biton said he will not vote in favor of overthrowing the government, nor will he resign. If he does not vote with the coalition, however, Bennett's government will need to enlist the support of opposition members to pass legislation.

Senior coalition leaders have said that the government cannot continue this way for long, and that Biton's move may be the catalyst for the government's collapse.

According to Biton, the Transportation Ministry's public transport reform harms residents living in non-urban areas and Israel's periphery. Michaeli responded to Biton on Tuesday, but Biton claims she did not adequately address his demands.

A source close to Biton added that he was supposed to hold a mediation meeting with Michaeli and cabinet secretary Shalom Shlomo on Wednesday, but Biton canceled the meeting.

Biton informed Defense Secretary and Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz ahead of his announcement. Biton said he may vote against legislation advanced by the coalition in the future.

A senior Kahol Lavan member expressed support for Biton, saying that Michaeli has put aside her social and democratic values in favor of a political agenda. "Kahol Lavan is committed to the government, as its MKs prove every day," the source added. "There is no doubt about its loyalty," he added.

Biton also opposes planned changed by the Agriculture Ministry, particularly a reform intended to improve the conditions of chickens kept in poultry sheds.

Two weeks ago, Biton warned Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he would stop voting with the government if the reforms were not amended. On Wednesday morning, Biton shut down an Economic Affairs Committee meeting on the reforms, explaining that he would not resume activity until the "Agriculture and Transportation Ministries change rethink their path and stop harming the needy."

Biton demanded that the Transportation Ministry reforms be implemented in cooperation with the committee, or be changed so that they do not harm residents of Israel's periphery.

"You'll get my cooperation if you stop hurting the farmers in the north and the weak segments of society," Biton said. "With good leadership, this damage can be prevented. It pains me that these reforms hurt the poor. We have lost our honor. In Ofakim, Beit She’an, Tiberias, Mitzpeh Ramon, Kiryat Shmonah, Sderot, the price of public transportation has risen by 130 percent. Nothing else has seen such a sharp rise in prices, and you want to hide that from the public eye? You thought it would just blow over quietly? Not on my watch."

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