Rightist MK Makes Headlines at Ministerial Committee for Legislation

Initiative to annex Jordan Valley may be on hold, but MK Miri Regev is waiting for the right time to propose other controversial bills.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

MK Miri Regev's proposed bill to apply Israeli law to Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley, which was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, was the first of several legislative initiatives by the Likud Knesset member aimed at annexing the settlements and outposts in the West Bank to the State of Israel.

Though approved by the committee, the bill was appealed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the Yesh Atid ministers, which means that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to decide when to bring it up for debate again. Until he does, the bill will go nowhere.

“The bill did its job,” said a Likud source. “We got a few headlines at the expense of the diplomatic process. But it’s clear to everyone that the bill will now be buried.”

The timing of Regev's bill was not coincidental, coming as it did two days before the release of another batch of Palestinian prisoners and the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on yet another visit.

Timing is everything, and Regev has two other bills up her sleeve which, presumably, will be revealed at some other sensitive time. One is a bill to block the evacuation of outposts and the other is a broader proposal to apply Israeli law to “all the Jewish communities in the areas of Judea and Samaria.”

Regev is the last surviving member of the Likud clique that challenged the ministerial committee in the past with a stream of right-wing legislative proposals. MKs like Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely and Ofir Akunis have since been appointed deputy ministers and have not submitted bills during the current term.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is meant to determine the fate of bills. If the panel decides to support a bill, the coalition is obligated to vote for it in the plenum and thus its future is assured. If the committee votes it down, the bill loses almost any chance of getting a majority in the Knesset. On only rare occasions does the committee allow coalition members to vote their conscience on controversial bills.

This rather gray and stodgy committee has, in recent years, become a serial producer of headlines and a constant platform for coalition wrestling. Most recently, the committee was the scene of high drama over whether to support a bill that would grant male homosexual couples with children the same tax credits as other parents.

During the last Knesset term, the committee grappled with numerous controversial bills. It was responsible for the coalition supporting the “Nakba law,” which imposes fines on academic institutions that give expression to the Palestinian perspective on the founding of the state, and the Libel Law, which raised the level of compensation a media outlet could be forced to pay, perceived as being in implict threat to journalists.

The previous chairman of the panel, former Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, was careful to maintain the confidentiality of the deliberations and would not reveal the identities of ministers who supported or objected to any of the bills it considered. This secrecy allowed ministers to “make deals” regarding certain bills or “settle accounts” with rival MKs without the latter knowing who was responsible for their bills being blocked.

The current chairman, Livni, tried to reduce the secrecy and wanted to publish how each of the ministers voted on each bill after every meeting. But the ministers vehemently objected and so her proposal fell through. Livni, however, always publicizes how she voted.

MK Miri Regev, chairwoman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee. A 'serious case' that must be examined.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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