Lacking a Majority, Knesset Opposition Pulls Motions to Dissolve Knesset

A defeat of such of motion would have required the opposition to wait another six months to reintroduce it, so the opposition is waiting for a more opportune time, one source said

Benjamin Netanyahu, front left, Yisrael Katz, front right, Sofia Landver, rear left, and AVigdor Lieberman in Knesset, November 19, 2018
Olivier Fitoussi

The fragile coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with a slim majority of 61 Knesset members out of 120, did not face motions to disssolve the Knesset on Wednesday as originally planned. 

The opposition withdrew the motions once it became clear that they would not garner majority support. If the motions, which would have precipitated elections, had been subject to a vote and voted down, Knesset procedure would have barred the opposition from reintroducing such a motion for six months. By law, elections must be held by November of 2019.

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"We are now waiting for a more appropriate opportunity in the coming weeks when the government is fragile and when it will be possible to pass the motions," an opposition source said.

Earlier Wednesday, before the opposition's decision to pull the motions to dissolve the Knesset, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the leader of the Kulanu party, a member of the governing coalition, told Kan Reshet Bet radio: "I will not raise my hand to move elections up. We want to continue to maintain his government to the end. I think that's a major public interest if it is functioning. If it isn't functioning, it's not in the public interest."

"The entire responsibility is on the coalition. The coalition will bring itself down. I hope it continues. People shouldn't think I want to bring down the government," Kahlon said.

Earlier the opposition managed to vote down a government bill that would have allowed separate land registration above and below ground, whether for sale or expropriation.

Coalition whip David Amsalem ordered the other bills on the agenda to be withdrawn, and on Tuesday, in a break with usual procedure, no bills at all were put to a vote. The truncated agenda was devoted to speeches by Knesset members.

It was the exit of Lieberman's party Yisrael Beiteinu from government last week that narrowed the coalition to 61 Knesset members out of 120, though Lieberman later stated that he might allow his party members to vote in favor of government-sponsored bills that are in keeping with his party's values – as long as the government agrees to advance a bill imposing the death penalty on terrorists.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee held a hearing on the terrorism bill on Tuesday at which committee chairman Nissan Slomianski (Habayit Hayehudi) said even though most of the coalition factions oppose it, Amsalem may allow it to proceed, based on accords reached with Yisrael Beiteinu in exchange for its support for other government bills.

"You moved to the opposition but in substance you are part of the coalition," Slomianski said to the Yisrael Beiteinu members present at the debate.

Despite the coalition's weakness, on Monday it managed to pass a law enabling housing to be built within national and municipal parks. The law does not specifically state that construction would be allowed in the City of David park next to Temple Mount in Jerusalem, but it was worded in a way  that allows for such a prosect. The bill had been promoted by the Elad association, which encourages a Jewish presence in the area of the City of David and runs the national park there.

The law passed by a majority of 63 to 41.