Netanyahu-Gantz Rotation Agreement May Be Toothless

Legal difficulties may force the parties to reduce the majority needed to repeal the legislation guaranteeing a rotation between Netanyahu and Gantz from 75 MKs to 61

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, Jerusalem, April 26, 2020
Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, Jerusalem, April 26, 2020Credit: אמיל סלמן
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Legislation meant to ensure that the prime minister’s job goes to Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz after 18 months may prove toothless, Knesset sources said on Monday.

For one thing, Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid-Telem ticket, announced on Monday that should Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu want to cancel his deal with Gantz at any point, Lapid’s party will vote with him. That would give Netanyahu’s bloc enough votes to repeal the legislation, which has a provision saying it can only be repealed if 75 of the Knesset’s 120 members vote to do so.

Israel’s single-use coalition will serve Trump and protect BibiCredit: Haaretz

Second, Knesset sources said, this provision will probably have to be changed before the bill passes in any case, to require only a 61-lawmaker majority. Given that Netanyahu’s bloc already comprises 59 members of Knesset, that means he would have to find only two additional votes to cancel the agreement.

During a committee discussion of this provision on Monday, one of the Knesset’s legal advisors, Eyal Zandberg, said the required majority should be reduced to 61 MKs because that is the existing constitutional norm. There are virtually no bills that require more than 61 MKs to amend or repeal them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference, March 17, 2020Credit: Emil Salman

Yamina lawmaker Ayelet Shaked also objected to the provision requiring 75 MKs. Other laws require only 61 MKs to pass, she said, and that should “definitely” be the case for this one as well.

A senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party who is involved in the bill’s drafting didn’t rule out the possibility of reducing the requirement to 61. But MK Eitan Ginzburg of Kahol Lavan, who chairs the ad hoc committee preparing the bill, said he thought it was possible to pass it with the 75-lawmaker requirement intact.

The committee has also been making changes in the bill aimed at covering scenarios that the drafters didn’t initially consider. For instance, the bill had no provisions for what would happen if for some reason either Netanyahu or Gantz must be replaced, so a mechanism was added to allow the Knesset to vote in a replacement should that occur.

Additionally, the original bill stated that only Netanyahu could fire ministers from his bloc, while only Gantz could fire ministers from his own bloc. But the committee’s legal advisor, Gur Bligh, pointed out that should either Gantz or Netanyahu resign, “their” ministers would be left with almost unlimited power, because nobody would be able to fire them.

At the Justice Ministry’s request, the committee scrapped a clause saying that both Netanyahu and Gantz would have to approve any emergency regulations, regardless of how dire the emergency was. This power will therefore rest with whoever is prime minister at the time. Another change is meant to ensure that the Knesset’s term ends after only three years.

Ginzburg said the legislation was necessary “to solve the crisis in which the country finds itself after three rounds of elections. The voters have had their say, and we must respect their will and spare the public and the country a fourth election.” MK Orit Farkash-Hacohen of Kahol Lavan agreed, saying, “Anyone who thinks Israel should embark on new elections next Thursday only wants to worsen the crisis.”

But MK Orna Barbivai from Yesh Atid-Telem said the bill “was born in sin. At its end, Gantz will become prime minister based on a shaky construction of distrust.”

The full Knesset also debated the bill on Monday and decided to remove one section dealing with party funding. That section will be moved to a separate bill that will come up for its first Knesset vote on Thursday.

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