Knesset fracas erupts after passage of 'Mofaz law'
Kadima MKs ousted from plenum after donning masks to protest passage of controversial 'Mofaz law'.
The Knesset approved the so-called "Mofaz Law" on Monday by a 62-47 vote. The law will allow a group of at least seven lawmakers from the same party to break away and form its own faction.
Prior to the law's passage, only one-third of the total number of MKs in any faction could legally splinter to form a separate parliamentary bloc.
The law is perceived as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to lure Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz and his supporters in the faction into rejoining the Likud.
During the vote, a number of Kadima MKs were removed the plenum after mockingly donning anti-pollution masks.
"True, this is an act that does not fall in the realm of a normal parliamentary tool, but the stench that emanates from Netanyahu's laws of survival calls for such a drastic step," Kadima MK Yoel Hasson said. "The entire public needs to know what kind of bad smell is wafting from the Knesset today."
Taking to the Knesset podium to denounce a law whose moniker bears his name, Mofaz told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that his efforts to pass legislation that would facilitate his entry into the government after a possible split from his party were being waged against his wishes.
"The time has come for you to behave like a prime minister and not like an average political wheeler-dealer," Mofaz told Netanyahu. "After you realized that you have no chance to preserve the coalition, you decided to bend [the rules] of democracy."
The Knesset will vote in first reading on Monday on the so-called "Mofaz Bill," which is expected to pass easily despite opposition from several senior Likud members.
After the government's failure last week to pass a major reform of the Israel Lands Administration, they are pulling out all the stops to prevent a repeat in Monday's vote, which is largely why the bill is expected to pass.
Among other things, Netanyahu has imposed party discipline on his Likud faction - meaning MKs who fail to support the bill could be penalized. He has also threatened to fire any minister or deputy minister - from any party - who votes against it.
In the past, Mofaz has criticized his party chairwoman, Tzipi Livni, for her refusal to join Netanyahu's right-leaning coalition. His dissatisfaction at remaining in opposition renders him a candidate to break away from Kadima and lead a splinter faction into Netanyahu's government, aides to the premier believe.
If passed, the law would allow any group of seven MKs to split off from their party and form an independent Knesset faction. Current law requires at least one-third of a party's MKs to leave in order for the new faction to be legal.
The government's main goal in passing this bill is to foment a split in the opposition Kadima party; it has been nicknamed the Mofaz Bill because Shaul Mofaz is considered the MK most likely to lead an exodus from Kadima.
"The State of Israel is not Cuba nor is it North Korea," Mofaz told the Knesset on Monday. "Too many good people have fought for the democratic face of this country, people that I value and admire."
"There is no chance that I will help you or anyone else to trample the democratic face of the state," Mofaz told Netanyahu. "If you want to fulfill a public job, you have to act accordingly."
Mofaz said those who hide behind the "Mofaz law" label are "cowards."
"It saddens me that in the most important group of people in the state, there are those who decided to act in a manner that is unbecoming of an officer and a soldier," Mofaz said.