Left-wing politicians and activists threatened to go to court to overturn the Knesset Speaker’s decision on Wednesday to hold a revote which enabled the coalition to defeat a proposal to establish a panel of inquiry into Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s alleged role in the submarine affair.
The motion initially passed by a vote of 25 to 23, but Knesset Speaker MK Yariv Levin (Likud) immediately invalidated the vote, saying that it had been conducted improperly and that several Likud MKs did not vote, because coalition chairman Miki Zohar (Likud) had asked for a roll-call vote.
In the second vote, only members of Likud, Shas and United Torah Judaism participated. The proposal to probe the submarines affair was then defeated 44 to 0. Members of the opposition refused to take part in the vote in protest of the cancellation of the electronic vote.
Opposition MKs were enraged, standing and shouting “shame, shame” and then walking out on the revote.
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), who sponsored the proposal, called the cancellation “a stain on Israeli democracy.”
Meretz party chief Nitzan Horowitz said he would appeal to the High Court against the nullification of the vote, as did the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, declared: “I’ve been a member of Knesset for eight years. Never has a vote been canceled after the vote. I’ve spoken to the longest-serving members of this house; none of them remember something like this,” Lapid said in a statement. “If you can cancel votes, you can close the Knesset. It isn’t needed anymore.”
Lapid described the Knesset as “just a theater so that Netanyahu can go around the world and claim Israel is still a democracy.”
He claimed the coalition wanted to block the inquiry because they know it will implicate Netanyahu. “He is up to his neck in this scandal. That’s why they are willing to do everything to prevent an investigation,” Lapid said.
The prime minister insists he had nothing to do with the purchase of the German submarines in question, and police investigators have said all along that although some of his close associates face prosecution, Netanyahu himself has never been a suspect in the case.
Levin later told Kan Radio that some MKs, including himself, hadn’t heard the announcement by Deputy Knesset Speaker Mansour Abbas (Joint List) that voting had begun. Levin and Abbas later issue a joint statement defending their action.
“After I heard that there was a request for a voice vote I considered cancelling the vote. The matter is before the Knesset legal adviser and will likely reach the [ High Court],” Abbas told Kan.
He rejected claims that he gave into pressure from Levin.
“No one can pressure or behave toward me in a disrespectful way. I do what I believe in,” Abbas said.
Zandberg countered that “there was a vote in the Knesset. It was held and announced. Only when they saw the results on the board did the problems start. A vote that is cancelled after seeing the results is a grave matter,” she told Army Radio.
However, Knesset Secretary Yardena Meller-Horowitz was quoted by Times of Israel saying it’s not unprecedented for a coalition chairman to ask for a roll-call vote, as Zohar did. It is “something that happens from time to time and what happened today should not be viewed as a precedent,” she said.