The proposed law to allow cabinet ministers and deputy ministers to resign their Knesset seats in order to open up places in the Knesset for other party members – and still return to the Knesset if the government falls – will be brought for a final vote in the Knesset plenum Wednesday. The Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee approved the so-called “Norwegian Law” with some changes, but decided it would be enacted as an “emergency ordinance” valid only for the present Knesset.
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The committee made two other major changes to the law. It removed from the original proposal what is called the “revolving door,” under which ministers could have taken turns resigning from the Knesset and returning. The other change, in response to an objection by MK David Amsalem (Likud), would allow Likud to be included under the law too. The original version applied the law only to parties with 12 Knesset seats or fewer, while the amended version would include larger parties too. The larger parties would be allowed to have up to three ministers or deputy ministers resign under the law.
The law would allow ministers to resign their Knesset seats and remain ministers, while the next member on their party’s Knesset list would enter the legislature in their stead. There is nothing keeping ministers from resigning today and remaining in the cabinet – but the bill would allow them to retake their Knesset seats if they resign their post as minister, are dismissed, the government falls or the Knesset votes to dissolve and call new elections.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu objected to applying the law to Likud, and even said after the bill passed its first reading in the Knesset that he would not allow it to advance if it included Likud. But on Tuesday Netanyahu told the Knesset, in response to the proposal to include his party, that he was considering the change.
Another amendment the committee made in the bill was dividing up the budget allocated to each MK for maintaining contact with voters, so that it would be split between the new MK and the minister who resigned.
Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) said at the beginning of the session that he had decided to accept the objection of MK Benny Begin (Likud) and make the law valid only for a limited period. He said many coalition MKs had accepted objections by opposition members that the new law should undergo a trial period to see if it was appropriate for Israel’s parliamentary culture.
The bill was sponsored by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the No. 2 in Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi party.
If the bill becomes law, the short list of MKs with no ministerial posts will be widened, making the lives of committee members a little easier. Currently, one-third of Knesset members are also ministers or deputy ministers. Since these officials cannot serve on Knesset committees or in special-interest caucuses, a limited number of coalition MKs are left to do so.
In the current Knesset, some coalition MKs are members of six different committees and cannot fulfill their duties because committee sessions are often held simultaneously.
“The law will allow the minister to focus on his cabinet work and allow the MK replacing him to focus on his parliamentary work,” Shaked explained. “With this law, ministers can devote their time and energy to their ministry without juggling different roles.”
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said: “Instead of ministers quitting, I propose appointing fewer ministers. This is further constitutional deterioration on the slippery slope intended to arrange jobs.”