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. In a vote on one of the most controversial bills ever, Netanyahu was missing. According to his bureau, he went to visit Sara’s father in the hospital. This isn’t the first time that Netanyahu has been absent, and for the exact same reason. Last week he arrived late to a discussion of Silvan Shalom’s bill for a long weekend. There is no doubt that this is very nice of Netanyahu. With regard to fulfilling his role as a son-in-law -- he gets very high marks. How many other people in such high positions would drop everything, sometimes urgent things, in order to visit their fatherin-law in the hospital? These absences are reminiscent of the prime minister’s first term. When Netanyahu would become pressured by some thing, he would stay home and an announcement would be issued by his bureau that he was sick. A number of commentaries were written about these illnesses. Now it is Sara’s father who is sick, and nobody makes light of it when a 96 year-old Jew is sick. After all, this is precisely the problem: how can anyone criticize a prime minister for doing such a lofty deed? But with all due respect, there is also a sick country here to run. It is unthinkable that when there is such a dramatic vote, Netanyahu vanishes. From an examination we carried out, we found that Netanyahu was at the hospital at 7:00 PM. At the time of the vote (22:30), he was at home. So what actually happened to Netanyahu? Why did the prime minister -who a day earlier decided to delay the vote on the bill by a week and toward midnight changed his mind and decided that the vote would take place as scheduled—decide to be absent from the plenum? Netanyahu worked out a vote trade-off in the afternoon, showing that he was planning to boycott the vote. Could it be that Netanyahu realizes that this is one of the most anti-democratic and individual right-denying laws ever passed by the plenum, and that he was simply ashamed to be present? Could it be that he himself recoiled from the law that even the Knesset’s legal adviser found very problematic, and that it isn’t at all clear if it will pass the High Court of Justice? Because if Netanyahu thinks that this law is damaging to the State of Israel and to its image as a democratic state, we would expect the prime minister to stand up to it like a man. And if he is in favor of it—he should not let others do the work for him but show up at the plenum and vote for it with his head held high. Netanyahu is not the only one who was absent from the vote. Rivlin ran the meeting, but did not vote. Barak and his entire Independence faction were absent, as were ministers Saar, Meridor and Silvan Shalom who made trade-offs, Erdan who was absent for personal reasons, Michael Eitan who was overseas and Gila Gamliel who also arranged a trade-off. Ministers Attias, Aharonovich, and Lieberman were absent, but in this case the sense is that is that this wasn’t because of their opposition to the bill but out of a sense of confidence that it would pass even without them. And indeed, the bill passed last night in second and third votes. This is a law that even in its softened version still suppresses the freedom of speech and the freedom to protest in Israel, which is liable to sabotage mortally Israeli discourse and is mainly meant to hurt people who initiate boycotts of settlements.
The big winner yesterday was the person who introduced the bill, Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin. I asked him if he thinks that the prime minister was pleased. Elkin didn’t know what to say. We did not have in-depth discussions about it, he said. In any case, he said, he did not get in the way of our passing it.