Name Calling, Screaming, Members Given the Boot! A Rough Start for Israel's Knesset Session

Two lawmakers were thrown out of the chambers, and verbal jabs were flying at Monday's opening session of the winter term of Israel's Knesset. Almost four months into the new unity government, opposition leader (former prime minister) Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party are still working feverishly to topple the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and built by Foreign Minister (and next PM) Yair Lapid. Netanyahu’s behavior is soiling his once pristine reputation as a statesman.

Netanyahu came out swinging, hurling accusations at Bennett and his government of "abandoning people to their deaths" (COVID-19) … "You (Bennett) brought change (as promised in the fight against the virus) but change for the worse. Today, under your leadership (Israel) ranks 41st out of 53 countries (in Bloomberg's index on the fight against coronavirus)."

Bennett fired right back, accusing Netanyahu's administration of "serial neglect," while his fledgling government has had "great successes" in its first 113+ days. "For two years, everything was stuck. Three and a half months after we started, we can already see results: Israel is open; we celebrated openly during the High Holidays, despite the predictions of lockdown."

Two Likud party members screamed and shouted during Bennett's speech and were booted from the chamber. Likud MK May Golan said, "You are the biggest failure of a prime minister we have ever seen." Galit Distal Atbaryan yelled at Bennett, "You are a conman. You are a liar. You are the worst thing to happen to this country." Both MKs were ejected from the session by chamber security.

If you can see past all the verbal theatrics, the real issue is the budget. Israel hasn't had a new budget for almost three years—and we desperately need one. But if there's no budget, Bennett and his coalition go away, and Netanyahu thinks he will become prime minister again. Bennett and Lapid's coalition has managed to put together a budget that includes some sweeping reforms (upsetting the status quo for the Orthodox community), much-needed assistance for long-neglected domestic issues, as well as additional support for Israel's defense. The budget bill (actually, it is a pair of bills) has cleared the first hurdle in the Knesset, but the legislation has to pass through two more votes ("readings") before it becomes law.

It is the first true test of the unity government's solidarity. If the budget does not pass by the (extended) deadline of November 14th, the unity government will be dissolved, and Israelis will likely have to head back to the polls again (the fifth time in three years).

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the chief architect of the Unity government and the prime minister-designate, urged coalition lawmakers on Monday to keep their eye on the ball.

"We have five weeks, during which we all have one goal and one goal only: to pass a budget. Without that, there will be no government. Without that, nobody will accomplish their dreams. Instead, we will go back to the chaos and the poison that was here just a few months ago."

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Shalom from Israel! I am Ron Cantor and this my blog. I am the GODTV Israel Regional Director host of the daily TV program, "Out of Zion". I also serve on the leadership team of a Hebrew-speaking, Spirit-filled congregation in Tel Aviv. We love Yeshua and we love Israel. Hope to see you here soon!

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