Twelve Likud Knesset members on Tuesday signed a petition to oust MK Miki Zohar as coalition and faction chair after he doled out a spate of punishments to senior lawmakers, sparking an internal row within the party.
Among those who initiated the move is MK Shlomo Karhi, who was among those punished by Zohar for "insubordination."
The disciplinary measures also include the removal of MK Yifat Shasha-Biton from the position as the head of the Knesset coronavirus committee due to her decision to allow gyms to re-open despite a government vote to keep them closed.
In order to successfully oust Zohar, the petitioners need a majority of the party's roster of MKs, meaning they need the support of at least seven more lawmakers - when they failed to achieve that, they withdrew the petition.
"We, the undersigned members of the Likud faction, demand that an election be held for the chairman of the Likud faction in the Knesset," the petition stated.
Zohar earlier Tuesday announced a series of disciplinary measures against five of the party's ministers and five Knesset members, with the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin .
The string of punishments were handed out by the Likud leadership for either voted against the coalition's consensus or failing to appear in the Knesset plenum during important votes.
In response to her removal, Shasha-Biton blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for trying to quash debate and serious discussions within the party.
"This is a decision that aims to prevent [us] listening to the public, and making other voices heard," said Shasha-Biton. "I am glad that I opened the committee to the public with transparency, seriousness, and full care. I pledge to continue to do so in the future, wherever I may be."
MK Michal Shir has been banned from submitting motions for the agenda until the government's term is done, due to her voting in favor of banning gay conversion therapy in Israel.
In addition, Zohar has decided to ban six MKs from submitting bills until the end of the current government's term: Shasha-Biton, Shlomo Karhi, Keren Barak, Sharren Haskel, Uzi Dayan and Avi Dichter.
Sanctions will also be imposed on several senior MKs who were absent from several important votes in the Knesset plenum: Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, Finance Minister Israel Katz, Education Minister Yoav Galant, former minister Ofir Akunis, and former minister Eli Cohen.
Zohar's decision was made in coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who decided to back up Zohar's moves in order to ensure cohesion within the Likud.
"It is my job and my duty to keep the coalition intact," wrote Zohar on Twitter.
"Recently, there has been a loosening of discipline within the coalition that makes it difficult for us to work for the people of Israel. In joint consultation with the prime minister, it was decided to sanction those same violators as has been the practice in all Israeli governments for generations."
"We need discipline within the coalition," said Netanyahu during the Likud meeting on Monday. "From the moment a decision is made - the coalition should respect it. It is not acceptable for ministers and MKs to do as they please. I say this to our partners, but also at home."
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid slammed the action taken against Shasha-Biton.
"Shasha-Biton fulfilled her role honestly, thoroughly and for the benefit of the public. Her punishment: Bibi fired her," Lapid wrote on Twitter.
Chairman of the Association for LGBTQ in Israel, Hila Pe'er, slammed the sanctions for those voting for the ban on gay conversion therapy.
"You need to sanction the conversion therapists, not those who vote against them due to their consciousness, right mind and professionals," she said.
First published: 22:32 , 07.28.20