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Ben-Gvir’s party again boycotts Knesset votes

The Otzma Yehudit MKs protested budget cuts to the Galilee and Negev regions.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives for a Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, May 14, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives for a Cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, May 14, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The six lawmakers of the Otzma Yehudit Party, led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, boycotted the votes in the Knesset on Wednesday in protest of budget cuts to the programs for the Galilee and the Negev.

In their absence, the government coalition did not have a majority on the parliament floor.

The remaining coalition members joined the opposition in approving a preliminary reading of a bill brought to the plenum by Yesh Atid lawmaker Meir Cohen. The bill offers eligibility for a diagnosis of possible learning disabilities to children from poor families.

Coalition whip Likud MK Ofir Katz slammed Ben-Gvir’s faction for “paving the way for the fall of the right-wing government.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Ben-Gvir following the walkout. A source close to Ben-Gvir said that the pair agreed that there was a problem with the allocations n the draft 2023-24 state budget but that no solution was reached during the brief meeting.

The boycott comes after Otzma Yehudit’s Yitzhak Wasserlauf, the minister for the development of the periphery, the Negev and the Galilee, sent a threatening letter to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich this week criticizing the Religious Zionism Party chief for cuts in the draft budget affecting the periphery regions under Wasserlauf’s purview.

Smotrich toured the Galilee on Wednesday, tweeting that “the Israeli government stands with the Galilee.”

It is the second time in a month that Otzma Yehudit has boycotted Knesset votes, with the previous time coming just before “Operation Shield and Arrow,” the brief aerial war with Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Ben-Gvir dropped the boycott after the IDF’s targeted killing of three top Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Strip.

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