Israel's New Government Moves to Stave Off Private Bills to Shore Up Stability

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Coalition members at swearing-in of new government, Sunday
Coalition members at swearing-in of new government, SundayCredit: Emil Salman
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Israel's new government has ordered the Knesset Presidium, the body which regulates plenary debates, not to advance private member’s bills during the month remaining until the parliament starts its summer recess, in order to reduce the chances that the coalition’s stability will be undermined.

Sources in the governing coalition said the move is meant to enable the new ministers and Knesset committees to start their work without delay, as has been done by previous governments as well. But it’s also meant to block bills that split the coalition or embarrass some of its members.

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Governments have blocked private member’s bills that might undermine their stability for years. Last April, for instance, then-Knesset Speaker Benny Gantz blocked hundreds of such bills, including one meant to prevent a criminal defendant from becoming prime minister and one meant to limit the prime minister to two terms. Three weeks ago, then-Speaker Yariv Levin blocked similar bills that were aimed largely at then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Nevertheless, the opposition – most of which was in the government until this week – protested the move. Shas lawmaker Yinon Azoulay wrote Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy that “preventing a Knesset member from legislating is a major blow to the fabric of parliamentary life,” and “fear of ‘wars’ or ‘trolling’ isn’t a sufficient reason for not advancing” private member’s bills.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, SundayCredit: Emil Salman

“It’s inconceivable that the government can submit bills while Knesset members are barred from doing so,” he added.

In the coming days, the government plans to discuss two other changes in the Knesset’s work practices – shortening the summer recess and reducing the number of members on each committee. Decisions will apparently be made next week, after all the ministers planning to resign from the Knesset have been replaced by the next people on their party tickets.

Also on Tuesday, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel urged the chairwoman of the Knesset Arrangements Committee to appoint opposition lawmakers as chairpersons of the committees the opposition has traditionally headed. In its letter to Yamina lawmaker Idit Silman, the organization warned that the coalition agreements didn’t seem to leave any of the Knesset’s permanent committees for the opposition.

If opposition members aren’t appointed, it continued, “an anomalous and unprecedented situation will exist, for the first time, in which the coalition takes ‘ownership’ of all the Knesset committees. In this situation, the opposition would be pushed out of committee management and the coalition would effectively control the Knesset completely.”