Opposition Fumes as Bibi Invokes Holocaust in Berlin Speech

By Jonathan Lis (Haaretz) and Haaretz Service

Published January 20, 2010.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the opposition on Wednesday of submitting a no-confidence motion against the government on the same day in which Israel and Germany held a historic joint cabinet session in Berlin.

Netanyahu said the timing of the opposition’s parliamentary motion was “inappropriate,” a statement which elicited furious catcalls from lawmakers of Kadima, the largest faction that is not participating in the premier’s center-right coalition.

At the opening of his remarks, Netanyahu spoke of the cabinet ministers’ trip to Berlin on Monday. The premier held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and took a tour of a memorial situated near the Brandenburg Gate in honor of European Jewry murdered during the Holocaust.

The prime minister also visited the Jewish Museum in Berlin and met with the speaker of the Bundestag.

On that same day, the Knesset approved a motion of no-confidence over the government’s handling of foreign policy. Thirty-four members of Knesset voted for the measure, while none opposed due to the coalition parties’ decision to boycott the session.

The opposition had refused a request to postpone the hearing until after the ministers return to Israel from their Germany trip. The vote was merely symbolic, since a majority of 61 members of Knesset is needed to topple the government in a no-confidence measure.

“I think that the decision to break a years-long tradition and to submit no-confidence on this, of all days, was inappropriate, and I am sorry for it,” Netanyahu said.

The premier was summoned to the Knesset on Wednesday after 41 opposition MKs co-sponsored a motion calling on the government to answer for what it termed “the Netanyahu government’s failure on diplomatic, economic, and social issues.”

“After the Jewish people were annihilated, after six million of our people were exterminated, the government of the Jewish state comes to Berlin, touching distance from Hitler’s bunker, and this was a moment of grandeur that certainly unites all members of parliament and all the rows of the plenum,” the prime minister said.

Kadima MKs were enraged at Netanyahu’s invoking of the Holocaust in the parliamentary debate. “Have you no shame?” MK Yohanan Plesner asked rhetorically.

Opposition MKs: Netanyahu is a lapdog for religious parties

Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu’s opponents in parliament expressed outrage at a proposed law which would grant a municipal tax exemption to synagogues which provide Torah instruction.

The bill was submitted by Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev. Kadima lawmakers say the new exemption would cover synagogues with Haredi wedding halls.

“The ink is barely dry on the disgraceful ‘jobs law’ [which would add more deputy mayors in Jerusalem] and Netanyahu has decided once again to kowtow to Shas and impose new levies on the local authorities and the taxpayers,” Plesner said.

“Rather than show weakness and grant exemptions to Haredi wedding halls, the time has come for Netanyahu to start demonstrating leadership and grant exemptions to hospitals and to real socio-economic needs,” he said.






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