The opposition failed to pass a bill proposal to increase the old-age pension to equal minimum wage on Wednesday after two Zionist Union MKs missed the vote.
The fact the bill proposal was rejected by 57 MKs, while 56 supported it, proves Prime Minister's Benjamin Netanyahu's narrow coalition of 61 Knesset members (out of 120) is successfully navigating the turbulent political waters despite predictions, mainly thanks to the opposition that struggles to join forces, and whose disobedient members are absent from crucial votes.
Newly-instated MK Robert Tiviaev, who some in the Knesset believe got a cushy deal to cooperate with the coalition, was absent from the vote, as was MK Yehiel Bar, who is on "a diplomatic mission in China."
Later, it transpired that Tiviaev had offset the vote—in violation of his faction discipline—with Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, who asked not to vote against raising the old-age pensions.
Speaking to the Israel News Company, Tiviaev struggled to provide an explanations to his absence. He claimed he was held up by a "personal phone call."
Following the embarrassment during the vote, the Zionist Union's Knesset faction head Yoel Hasson decided to suspend Tiviaev from parliamentary activity for a month, saying the errant MK decided to offset the vote with Gamliel of his own accord and without consulting with his faction. This punishment is mostly symbolic, however, as it will not prevent Tiviaev from taking part in future votes.
"If Tiviaev acts like a team player and in accordance with the faction's positions, the sanctions imposed on him will be lifted, otherwise they will be made stricter," Hasson explained.
In reference to Bar's absence from the vote, Hasson added that the matter would be discussed upon the MK's return from China.
MK Itzik Shmuli, who proposed the bill, expressed his disappointment with the MKs' conduct, saying, "the government spat in the faces of the elderly citizens who founded our country. Voting against the bill, after a measly NIS 60 were added to the old-age pension, is a crime."
"None of the MKs and ministers could have lived off a NIS 2,000 (monthly) allowance, but when it comes to the elderly citizens, they are okay with it," he continued.
MK Shelly Yachimovich, also of Zionist Union, echoed Shmuli's sentiments. "It pains me that the opportunity to pass MK Shmuli's important bill proposal, which was signed by all Zionist Union members, was missed," she said.
"The absence of our faction members from the vote is a disgrace. To be present during votes is the minimum required of MKs," she continued.
"Those who allow themselves to be absent when the government is hanging by a thread of one voice, when the opposition is able to do its work properly—to crack or to bring down the government—are not entitled to get paid by the public."
Commenting on the Zionist Union's sanctions against him, Tiviaev said, "Yoel Hasson's hypocrisy crosses every line. Unfortunately, the Zionist Union heads are being dragged after this pyromaniac, instead of building a strong and effective opposition."
"The slander and threats against MK Yehiel Bar and myself are creating division, and hurt the opposition's strength," he added.