Controversial Electricity Bill Passes Into Law

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stands up as he confronts and argues with opposition members during a plenum session and a vote on MK Waleed Taha’s electricity bill, in the Knesset, Jan. 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset approved on its second and third readings the controversial electricity bill, which will allow tens of thousands of illegally built Arab homes to connect to the electric grid and use the water and telephone infrastructure.

The final vote passed 61 to 0. Three Joint List MKs abstained.

“I will not participate in this farce,” opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu said when it was his turn to vote.

The opposition will now decide whether to boycott in full the Knesset.

Likud MKs booed Bennett and Yamina MK Nir Orbach for voting against an amendment calling for hooking up outposts in Yehudah and Shomron to electricity, causing Bennett to get up and verbally challenge the Likud.

“We will not surrender to bullying,” Bennett said after the incident.

In the aggressive debate this morning, Knesset Interior Committee chairman Waleed Taha (Ra’am – United Arab List), sponsor of the law, spoke at length in Arabic, defending the bill. Likud MK Avi Dichter, former chief of the Shin Bet, challenged him on his use of Arabic and said that the decent thing to do would be to translate into Hebrew.

It is legal to address the Knesset in Arabic. When Likud MK David Amsalem asked Taha to repeat his speech in Hebrew, Taha said, “If you don’t understand Arabic, that’s your fault.”

Amsalem told Ra’am MKs, “We will disconnect you from electricity when we come back to power.”