Knesset’s winter session opens amid raucous showdown

October 6, 2021 by Aryeh Savir - TPS
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The Knesset commenced with the Winter Assembly of the 24th Knesset amid a raucous confrontation between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the opposition.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Aug. 18, 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

President Isaac Herzog addressed the Knesset and called on it to “find a way to return quickly to respectful, decent, and ongoing discourse between Coalition and Opposition, between Opposition and Coalition. Fight for your beliefs, with determination and passion. But even within the frenzy of debate, do not forget: matter-of-fact arguments—yes. Legitimacy for thuggery—no.

He called on the Members of Knesset (MK) to “draw clear red lines for public discourse. To conduct your debates about substance. To stop manifestations of discord, to be guides, to give value, to be role models.”

Speaker of the Knesset MK Mickey Levy likewise called for an end to “the violent discourse. Enough with the baseless hate. Enough with the boycotting. Yes to mutual respect. Yes to cooperation. Yes to unity among the people.”

However, a storm broke the moment Bennett ascended the podium, with opposition members heckling and accusing him of lying and swindling, and several MKs being forcefully removed from the plenum.

Bennett listed what he believed were his government’s achievements, including the budget, which has yet to be passed and decreased unemployment, which went up last month.

Addressing the Coronavirus crisis, Bennett claimed that “the citizens of Israel are at the centre. We are here to serve the State of Israel, not the other way around.”

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu responded that “the first 100 days of this Government can be summed up in one sentence: The Government contains, the media feeds [the public], and Israel’s citizens get the short end of the stick.”

He accused the government of “accepting the death of dear people, not fighting against the mortality rate, not doing everything to save lives, simply to forsake people to their death. The statistics do not lie: Four months ago Israel was ranked in fifth place in the Bloomberg [Covid Resilience] Ranking in its success in [dealing with] the coronavirus, and today, under your Government, it ranks us in the 41st place out of 53 countries.”

“Bennett, you promised a dramatic change in the coronavirus within five weeks. You were right on that matter, but it was a change for the worse, not for the better. Just less than four months ago, we handed over to you a country with almost no mortality, and since then 1,392 people have died. Most of the people who died could have been saved,” said Netanyahu.

“We will continue to act as one person to bring down this patchwork Government, and don’t be so smug. The people are not stupid, they know that you have no path and leadership; there is only one thing that unites you and everyone knows what that is or who that is. But it won’t do you any good, we will topple you and bring back the State of Israel from the lowest valley to the highest peak,” he stated.

The winter session promises to be very stormy, with the coalition fighting with its meagre majority to pass the state budget by November. A failure to do so spells the end of Bennett’s government and elections again.

The latest polls show Netanyahu’s Likud party gaining momentum with 35 seats, and Bennett’s party just passing the electoral threshold with only four seats.

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