Netanyahu Considering Forcing Ministers to Vacate Knesset Seats

Source close to Likud leader says move may help streamline parliamentary activity in Knesset.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is considering passing a law requiring ministers to give up their Knesset seats, Haaretz has learned. A source close to Netanyahu said that the Likud leader views this as a move that could possibly enlarge the number of Knesset members in a coalition headed by him. The source added that the move may help streamline parliamentary activity in the Knesset and its committees.

According to some of Netanyahu's potential partners in the coalition - if President Shimon Peres decides to task him with its formation - he has told them over the past week that a final coalition agreement may include a clause that binds their parties to voting in favor of the bill, known locally as "the Norwegian law."

The law will require all ministers to vacate their Knesset seats in favor of other members of their parties. As ministers who are also Knesset members are often absent from plenum votes because of their ministerial roles, the Norwegian law would effectively mean that more coalition legislators will be present in parliament at almost any given time.

According to one party head, Netanyahu told him that if Kadima decided against joining a coalition with him as prime minister, Netanyahu will form a narrow coalition of 65 seats. Such a scenario would require the coalition to pass the Norwegian law, lest ministers are grounded in the plenum to stave off legislative initiatives by the opposition.

In speaking about this prospect, Netanyahu let some listeners understand he has not yet formed a final position on the matter. It merits mentioning that every Israeli prime minister in the past two decades has toyed with the idea of passing the Norwegian law, but this never came to fruition for a host of reasons.

Meanwhile, other sources close to Netanyahu have told Haaretz that if Kadima agrees to join a coalition with him as premier, Netanyahu may dispense with the services of one rightist party so as to avoid forming a colossal 93-member coalition. This figure represents a rightist camp combined with the ultra-Orthodox parties and Kadima. "Such a government would be hard to govern and very unpopular with the general population. It would necessitate the appointment of about 30 ministers," one source said

The source added that if Kadima joins Likud, then Netanyahu could do away with the National Union "and maybe another party from our natural camp." A senior official within Kadima said he expects his party to eventually join a coalition under Netanyahu, "because at the end of the day there's a little something called the State of Israel, and it needs to be run."

If Kadima does join under Likud, it will demand the foreign and defense portfolios, a party official said.



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