The Knesset approved a procedural decision on Monday that will shorten the legislative process for a bill on force-feeding prisoners, after four opposition MKs who were present in the building declined to show up for the vote.
The decision passed by a vote of 53-50, meaning it would have failed had those four MKs voted. All four of them – Yair Lapid and Ofer Shelah of Yesh Atid, and Zouheir Bahloul and Miki Rosenthal of Zionist Union – are declared opponents of the force-feeding bill as it currently stands.
The bill would allow hunger-striking security prisoners – meaning those suspected or convicted of involvement in terrorism – to be force-fed under certain conditions. The decision approved on Monday allows the government to continue the legislative process from where it left off in the previous Knesset. In this case, it means the bill will not have to go through a first reading again; instead, it will go straight to committee.
Rosenthal, who was actually present in the plenum, said afterward that he did vote, but his vote didn’t register with the electronic voting system. Lapid declined to comment. A Yesh Atid spokesman said that Shelah was late for the vote due to an unspecified mishap.
The previous government had reached an agreement with Yesh Atid on a softened version of the bill, and last week, Deputy Attorney General Ran Nizri said this is the version that would be passed. But the version actually presented to the Knesset yesterday was the original version, which Yesh Atid opposed.
The Knesset Constitution Committee will now have to decide whether to keep it as is or include the changes agreed upon with Yesh Atid.
Under the version submitted yesterday, if a doctor concluded that a hunger-striking prisoner was liable to die or suffer severe health damage in the immediate future, the prison commission would be able to ask a district court for permission to give him medical treatment against his will, including force-feeding him. The court would have to weigh various factors before making its decision, including the prisoner’s own views and those of the hospital ethics committee at the institution where he is hospitalized.