Change to ‘Norwegian Law’ Should Start With Next Government Term, Knesset Lawyer Says

The proposed amendment to the law, which Kahol Lavan is particularly anxious to enact, would let more cabinet members give their legislative seats to party colleagues

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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The Knesset, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020
The Knesset, Jerusalem, May 17, 2020Credit: Adina Wallman / Knesset Speaker's Office
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The legal adviser to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee has recommended that a controversial amendment to the law allowing a cabinet member to resign from the Knesset in favor of the next candidate on their party’s election slate take effect only in the next government.

The latest proposal for the so-called "Norwegian Law" would permit any cabinet minister or deputy minister who is also a Knesset member to suspend their legislative position. At present the law allows just one such replacement for each party in the coalition.

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Kahol Lavan is particularly anxious to pass and enact the amendment. Cabinet ministers or deputy ministers cannot be appointed to parliamentary committees. That leaves only three of the party’s 15 Knesset members free to serve on these important panels.

In its opinion, the counsel said there are numerous legal problems with the amendment that Kahol Lavan supports.

The amendment was passed in a preliminary vote in the Knesset last week before being sent back to the committee for discussion. The committee discussed the bill Saturday and Sunday, so that a first reading could take place this week. The bill would allow every party in the coalition to replace ministers in accordance with the number of MKs it has.

The document from the legal adviser says, “It would be proper to legislate a constitutional arrangement in principle, and not to implement coalition agreements, a situation that could be influenced by the needs of each faction and even by the identity of the MKs.” He noted that the model proposed for Israel would be different than that utilized in other countries. Its original purpose is to separate between the legislative and executive branches, and in most countries where such a law exists, all the ministers resign from parliament. In Israel, however, it would be more flexible.

Kahol Lavan wanted to include a “skipping” mechanism in the bill so that only members of Hosen L’Yisrael, Benny Gantz’s original faction, would be moved up into the Knesset. But Kahol Lavan ran in the last election as a faction of three different parties, including Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid, and Telem, led by Moshe Ya’alon, and under pressure from the High Court of Justice, this clause was removed from the coalition agreement. Instead, a clause was inserted allowing a resigning minister to rescind his resignation if the MK replacing him joins a different party. The legal advisory team recommended reexamining this clause and its consequences. The next candidates on the Kahol Lavan slate who didn’t make it into the Knesset include two from Hosen L’Yisrael, two from Yesh Atid and one from Telem.

Other difficulties noted include the cost of implementing the changes. The amendment forbids a minister from resigning the cabinet and returning to the Knesset, so that no MK serves under a threat that he or she might be forced out.

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