From Shakespeare to Yemenite Tunes: The Creative Ways Israel's Opposition Is Filibustering the Police-silencing Bill

Trying to make up for previous failures, lawmakers tied up the plenum for 45 hours with some very original stunts

Lawmakers in the Knesset, December 25, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

Quotes from Shakespeare, Yemenite tunes and discussions about soccer were some of the ways the opposition dragged out the debate Tuesday on the so-called recommendations bill, as it tried to fill the 45 hours it was allotted to express its objections.

The filibuster also included a speech in Moroccan Arabic and some prayers recited from the podium, in an effort to get the attention of the media and the public, and to signal that the bill that would restrict the police’s ability to submit written recommendations to the prosecution in cases involving public figures would not pass its two final readings without a fight.

The opposition is also seeking to erase the severe damage to its image a month ago, when 17 of its MKs were absent when the bill passed the first of its three votes.

Fewer than half of the MKs were present in the Knesset during most of Tuesday. Most of them were at home or in the hotel rooms that had been rented for them in Jerusalem, close enough to respond immediately lest the opposition suddenly decide it had finished its comments and was ready for a vote. A source in the Knesset said that an agreement had been reached that the filibuster organizers would give the opposition two hours’ notice before calling the vote, which would prevent embarrassment to the coalition and allow the ministers and MKs to arrive on time.

MK Eitan Cabel recites the Book of Lamentations with Yemenite pronunciation
MKs Eitan Cabel and Ahmed Tibi discuss soccer
MK Yoel Hasson reads WhatsApp messages he received

The lengthy filibuster led to the cancelling of all the Knesset committee hearings scheduled for Tuesday. Debates on the so-called supermarket bill, which would regulate Shabbat commerce in cities, on work accidents, and on sexual harassment in the entertainment industry were all postponed, leading to mutual condemnations between right and left.

“For this government, none of these hearings were important,” said MK Dov Khenin (Joint List). “For this bill, the prime minister was even prepared to give up a hearing on the nation-state bill and the supermarket bill.”

Coalition MKs lashed out at Khenin. “The coalition would be happy to have done without the speeches and conducted the committee hearings as scheduled,” said one. “It’s the opposition that’s tying up the plenum and paralyzing the Knesset’s work.”

Zionist Union whip MK Yoel Hasson managed to spend three hours at the podium with a new gimmick: He pulled out a cell phone and read protest messages that were being sent to him in real time by citizens who object to the bill. He was planning another three-hour session with the phone on Wednesday.