Lawmakers Approve Law Allowing Ministers to Be Replaced in Knesset by Party Members

The passing of the so-called 'Norwegian Law' is of particular interest to Kahol Lavan, with only three of the party’s 15 member faction not cabinet members

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Affairs Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 15, 2020
Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Affairs Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 15, 2020Credit: Adina Wallman / Knesset speaker's office
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The Knesset approved Monday overnight the final reading of the so-called “Norwegian Law,” which allows cabinet members and their deputies to resign from the Knesset and be replaced in the legislature by other members of their party.

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The proposal, which is in fact an amendment to the Knesset Basic Law, was approved by a majority of 66 Knesset members for and 43 against, after all opposition reservations were rejected. A majority of 61 out of 120 lawmakers was required to approve the law.

Kahol Lavan gave great significance to the approval of this law, since only three of their 15-member faction were not members of the cabinet, which allows them to serve on Knesset committees. The party at first wanted to include a clause which would allow them to skip over members of the original party before it broke up, so that members of Yair Lapid’s party would be excluded. But a High Court of Justice ruling caused this clause to be removed.

However, It was replaced by another clause instead, allowing a resigning cabinet member to reconsider if the incoming Knesset member will join another faction. Of the five new Knesset members who will join after cabinet members resign, two are from Gantz’s original Hosen L’Yisrael party, two are from Lapid’s Yesh Atid, and one is from Moshe Ya’alon’s Telem party. Benny Gantz will try to recruit two of these new Knesset members to his faction.

Lapid said in response to the approval of the law that "the fifth Netanyahu government breaks all disconnection and opacity records. Instead of unemployment benefits and unemployed grants, it's wasting public money" on handing MKs what he said were unnecessary jobs.

The legal counsel to the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee has recommended only applying the new law to the next Knesset, so that it becomes a matter of principle, not just a solution for the distress of one party already in the Knesset. A document disseminated before the law’s first reading stated that it was possible to pass it as a regular law, not just as a temporary ordinance, but several problems with Kahol Lavan’s version were presented, resulting in a recommendation to discuss them.

The document stated that it would have been better to produce a principled legal arrangement, not an implementation of coalition agreements, which is liable in the future to be affected by the needs of one faction or the identities of specific Knesset members. It noted that the Israeli version of the law was different than in other countries where the law applies. Originally, the law was intended to separate the legislative and executive branches of government. In most countries in which the law was passed, all cabinet members resign from parliament. In Israel things are less straightforward, and its implementation is at the discretion of cabinet members.

Meanwhile, Gantz met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, expressing his willingness in principle to discuss a change in the Basic Law on Government, so that Netanyahu will be able to dissolve the Knesset if the High Court of Justice strikes down his appointment as deputy prime minister, when the time comes. Netanyahu will also be able to serve as prime minister from the Knesset’s dissolution until the election.

After this meeting, Kahol Lavan members said that there was no connection between their support for changing the basic law and the passage of the “Norwegian Law,” adding that they were willing to discuss any request, regardless of the new law. If Gantz and Netanyahu reach an understanding regarding the change to the basic law, this will take place before the High Court rules on the matter, they said.

The coalition agreement affords Netanyahu a safety net of half a year in the event that the High Court forbids him from serving as an deputy prime minister after the rotation takes place. The legal document presented to the committee says that if Netanyahu is disqualified, Kahol Lavan will support the dissolution of the Knesset and a new election, without offering an alternative candidate as prime minister or acting prime minister. Netanyahu is now seeking to extend the six months the agreement allows for, but it’s not clear what Gantz will have to say about this.

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