A massive row erupted in the Knesset on Wednesday as Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin overturned a vote on legislation to form a committee of inquiry into the controversial purchase of submarines from Germany.
Lawmakers voted 25 to 23 to create a parliamentary commission into the so-called submarine affair, which allegedly saw Israeli officials advocating for the purchase of naval vessels from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp in return for kickbacks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was cleared of suspicion in the affair, known as Case 3000.
Opposition lawmakers erupted in parliament when Levin, a Netanyahu ally from Likud, announced that he would hold a repeat vote on the issue.
The speaker said he overturned the vote after several coalition MKs said they either did not have enough time to cast their vote or that they believed it would be a roll call vote with their names being called in turn. Instead the vote was held electronically, with MKs being instructed to push a button to indicate their vote.
Opposition lawmakers stormed out of the plenum when Levin made his announcement, with some yelling “shame” at him.
"As I was present, I do not have to learn what happened here from a second hand account,” said Levin, insisting that the voting procedure had been unclear.
“Even I, sitting in my [speaker's] chair, did not vote. I did not vote for two reasons: one, because this was a roll call vote and two, because the announcement that this was an electronic was not made or was inaudible," Levin said.
"In light of the clear request for a roll call vote, I hereby cancel the outcome of the vote and announce a roll call vote."
After the opposition lawmakers departed in order to boycott the second vote, more members of the ruling Likud party arrived in the plenum and the bill failed by 44 votes against and none in favor. The bill had not been expected to pass in any event due to a lack of support from coalition lawmakers.
“What happened here was very simple,” said the coalition chairman, Likud MK Miki Zohar, after the second vote.
“They will probably check the cameras and the truth will come out. First of all, for those who do not know, my vote was not recorded. Do you know why the coalition members did not vote? Because I requested a roll call vote and people did not vote because they were waiting to be called by name. The moment I requested a roll call vote, they should have called the names of MKs and they should have voted. Electronic voting was activated even though I asked for a roll call vote."
Deputy Knesset Speaker Mansour Abbas of the Joint List, who was in charge of the vote, issued a joint statement with Levin supporting the decision to cancel the first vote, the Israeli media reported.
According to the joint statement, Abbas failed to hear Zohar requesting a roll call vote, adding that, "It was the correct decision to cancel the results of the vote and redo it."
Bill sponsor Tamar Zandberg of Meretz demanded after the vote that the video of the events was inspected from all angles, arguing any request for a roll call vote was only made once electronic voting was already underway.
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz added: "This is a disgrace in the Knesset. There was a majority for the proposal to set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the submarine affair, now Speaker Levin committed an unprecedented act by canceling the vote, only to hold another after more coalition MKs entered the plenum.”