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The Knesset approved on Monday the first reading of an amendment to the Basic Law on the State Economy requiring a majority of 55 Knesset members for any private bill that costs more than NIS 5 million. The present law requires only 50 MKs to approve such a bill.

They opposition says this amendment would seriously harm MKs' ability to pass private legislation - bills not supported by the government.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin announced he was "conditionally" approving a vote on the law, but ordered the Knesset Finance Committee not to discuss the bill before November, since opposition MKs claimed the amendment would require the support of 61 MKs as it significantly changes a basic law and the legislative process.

The opposition managed its first surprise of the winter session yesterday over the proposed legislation: Opposition factions withdrew two no-confidence motions they had introduced. The move significantly changed the Knesset agenda for the day, and placed the controversial law immediately up for a vote, forcing the coalition to muster all its members immediately, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Most opposition MKs refused to take part in the roll call vote, in order to protest the bill.

MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said yesterday: "The coalition is trying to dictate new rules of the game. After all, what is the role of a private Knesset member? To legislate laws. The coalition comes along and tries to block this channel too, in order to leave the decision-making process in the cabinet's hands."

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) would be one of the MKs most seriously affected by the change. He said that until now it was very hard to assemble enough votes, but "raising the bar is like telling Knesset members: 'Don't legislate.'"