Last-ditch Laws and PM Lapid: Israel's Parliament Enters Marathon 48-hours

The opposition refuses to promote laws that will allow advancing the Tel Aviv subway project and complete negotiations to grant U.S. visa exemption to Israelis, while a law to increase party funding ahead of the election is expected to pass

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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Incoming PM Yair Lapid and Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai in the Knesset on Monday.
Incoming PM Yair Lapid and Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai in the Knesset on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

The Knesset enters a 48-hour legislation marathon on Tuesday as lawmakers from both Israel's coalition and opposition will try to promote as many laws before it dissolves on Wednesday night.

The bill dissolving the Knesset passed its first reading on Monday – after the first day of debate on it. More debates will be held on the matter on Tuesday and Wednesday, and only after that will the Knesset vote to dissolve itself and call new elections.

The reason all this time was required was the need to pass a long list of new laws of two types, before the vote on dissolving the Knesset – after which it will be almost impossible to pass legislation, apart from the most exceptional cases.

The first group of laws that needs to be passed concerns the elections, laws that must be passed before every election – and especially those on state funding for the parties’ election campaigns.

The second group of laws to be passed are ones agreed upon by both the opposition and coalition, which by consensus have agreed to pass them before the Knesset dissolves and recesses.

The coalition and opposition had a fierce dispute over party campaign funding. Likud insisted on raising the “funding unit" – the amount every party in the present Knesset receives for every one of its Knesset members. Today, each unit is worth slightly less than 1.4 million shekels ($412,000), and Likud wants to raise this to 1.8 million shekels.

In the end a compromise was reached, and the funding unit will be raised to 1.6 million shekels. The reason this is important to Likud is because of the party’s large debts – and the party traditionally spends large sums of money on its election campaigns.

The Knesset also has to pass laws relating to the upcoming campaign and elections, mostly because of requests from the Central Elections Committee. A bill has been prepared for just this purpose: The Elections for the 25th Knesset (Special Directives and Amendments).

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee will debate this bill on Tuesday, and mostly it includes increased funding for the Elections Committee, shortening the procedural schedule for the elections and expanding the exemption from competitive bidding tenders for the election process.

At the same time, both the coalition and opposition are working on reaching a list of agreed upon laws to be advanced. These are laws to be passed in full agreement between the two sides. But Likud has refused to advance legislation in the consensus if in their view the laws could benefit coalition parties in the next election. For example, the “Metro Law,” which provides the legal framework to advance the new subway system project for the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, is one such bill.

Like chairman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, in June.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

A bill to combat climate change has already passed its first reading as of Tuesday evening, with 15 lawmakers voting for and zero against a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to prepare for unavoidable damage to the climate.

It is now under discussion and Likud is unwilling for it to advance – except in return for moving up the date of the election. A law that would advance the process for Israelis receiving visa waiver for visits to the United States has also stalled because the opposition does not want to provide the government with any achievements.

According to the agreements, all these laws must be passed by midnight Wednesday night, when the law to dissolve the Knesset will be passed in its second and third votes – the final ones. Some of the bills will be passed only in their first vote, but this means the bills will then be able to continue on in the legislative process in the next Knesset from this same stage – instead of having to go back to the very beginning of the process.

Immediately upon the dissolution of the Knesset, the office of prime minister will automatically be transferred to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. According to the law, the Knesset does not have to vote again on his appointment and he will not need to take the oath of office and be sworn in as prime minister – because he already did so when he was appointed alternate prime minister when Naftali Bennett was sworn in. On Thursday, a ceremony will be held in the Prime Minister’s Office, and Lapid will take office and Bennett will leave.

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