Early Elections in the Air as Knesset Faces Bills on Loyalty, Draft and Damage Control

The main task of the governing coalition will be to pass the military conscription bill, while Netanyahu must also meet two promises he made before the summer recess

A man cleans a window at the Knesset ahead of the beginning of the legislative season in October 2018.
Yitzhak Harari / Knesset Spokesperson

The Knesset winter session that opens Monday may quickly turn out be a lost and pointless legislative season. If early elections are called, the Knesset will be dissolved.

Several dramatic bills are on the Knesset’s agenda, some of them entirely new and others . Some are new, while others were carried over from the summer session.

The main task of the governing coalition will be to pass the military conscription bill, considered a major threat to the stability of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. The challenge is to bridge the positions of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his partner in promoting the bill, Yesh Atid Chairman MK Yair Lapid, and the positions of the ultra-Orthodox parties.

Netanyahu must also meet two promises he made before the Knesset’s summer recess: Passing a law to “rectify” some of the damage caused by the nation-state law, by upgrading the status of the Druze and Bedouin communities. At the same time, the prime minister will have to contend with his public statements in which he supported a law allowing surrogacy for members of the LGBT community. On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation postponed by two months a vote on a parallel proposal by MK Yael German of the opposition party Yesh Atid. German’s proposal will be submitted to a Knesset vote Wednesday. It is expected to embarrass Netanyahu, who will not support it despite his earlier proclamations.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is expected to attempt to move forward two flagship laws she’s initiated. The so-called loyalty and culture bill would allow the culture minister to deny state funding to institutions for disrespecting state symbols. The second law regulates the culture ministry’s appointment of lectors to movie foundations for the purpose of determining which movies to fund.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is expected to advance several controversial bills next week. They include one that would make it easier for cabinet members to appoint legal advisers in their ministries. Another would set time limits on criminal investigation. The committee will also discuss proposed amendments to the law prohibiting calls for a boycott on Israel. It may also address a bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu prohibiting the recording of Israeli soldiers during operational missions. The coalition wants vaguer wording, prohibiting interference with soldiers performing their duties.

Also on the legislative agenda is amending election law. It’s unclear whether Netanyahu’s proposal to lower the party electoral threshold again will be put to a vote, due to opposition from his coalition partners.

The new chairwoman of the opposition, MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), hopes to pass a number of bills to mitigate the possible effects of the new nation-state law. First, she wants to enshrine in law the principle of equality, as part of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty. Another proposal is to adopt the principles of the Declaration of Independence as a Basic Law. A third bill would set the terms of the national police commissioner and the army chief of staff at four years each.

“We intend to do everything possible so that this Knesset dissolves quickly,” Zionist Union whip MK Yoel Hasson said. Until elections are called we’ll try to minimize damage and make every effort to block or slow down bad and populist laws the government is cooking up, such as Regev’s loyalty and movie laws, a change to MKs’ immunity from prosecution and any other law intended to protect the corrupt Likud back-benchers.”