Israel's Last Knesset Had Record-breaking Number of Bills Passed

Figures also reveal a major surge in MKs filing private-member bills on marginal issues, although only about four percent of those proposed were passed

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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FILE Photo: Members of the 20th Knesset in the plenum, 2017.
FILE Photo: Members of the 20th Knesset in the plenum, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The 20th Knesset broke the record for legislative action, passing no less than 625 government-sponsored and private-member bills.

However, out of 5,997 legislative proposals, only four percent were enacted into 246 laws, and 77 percent of the bills, 4,646 in number, never even reached the stage of debate.

>>Read more: Big stakes are at play in Israel's coalition talks | Analysis

In short, the figures reveal the massive extent of Knesset members filing private-member bills on marginal issues, few of which reach the stage of enactment into law.

In February 2017, Knesset members unanimously approved a bill changing the term “old-age pension” to “veteran citizen pension.” Outgoing Knesset member Nachman Shai explained the move is a small change in terminology that constituted a significant change in perception.

A year later, the Knesset approved a bill changing the term “not of public interest” as grounds for closing a police investigation, to the term “the circumstances of the matter do not warrant trial” – yet this did not involve handing down any new rules or directives to the police and prosecution.

FILE Photo: Eyal Yinon, legal adviser to the Knesset, 2017. Credit: Emil Salman

MK Karin Elharar of Yesh Atid commented that she “doesn’t have a decades-long resume” in the Knesset, “but I get the point. If you don’t have anything real to do, make up something to do.”

Yariv Levin, formerly the liaison between the government and the Knesset, tried to persuade the opposition to support an initiative that would slash the incidence of private-member bills that were gumming up the Knesset works. It didn’t work.

Over the years, the number of private-member bills has been more or less steadily rising. In the ninth Knesset, 82 such bills (versus 305 government bills) were enacted. By the 12th Knesset, that number reached 140 private-member bills as opposed to 198 government bills. Come the 18th Knesset we reached 274 private-member bills versus 316 government ones. So if anything, the 20th Knesset brought a slight dip to 246 private-member bills tabled while government law enactment rose to 359 bills.

But together, government and private legislative action reached an all-time high in the last Knesset.

Eyal Yinon, legal adviser to the Knesset, points out that historically, private-member bills succeed when they can attract a rainbow coalition of support.

Indeed, in the 20th Knesset, 60 percent of the bills that passed enjoyed joint support, while only 31 percent of the bills were supported only by coalition members and 9 percent only by opposition members.

The subjects attracting the most legislative effort included reforming the legal system, public health, criminal law, welfare and taxation.

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