Until New Coalition Is in Place, MKs Won’t Be Burning the Midnight Oil

Before Netanyahu forms Israel's new governing coalition, even parliamentary committee assignments cannot be finalized by members of the 19th Knesset.

The 19th Knesset will convene for its first working session on Monday. But the members of the newly elected parliament, who were sworn in with such pomp last week, will not exactly be straining themselves this year. At most they will be working for seven months in 2013.

Why is that? Because they will be on the job only from February through mid-March, from the end of April until the end of July, and from October until the end of the year. That's it.

Soon enough they'll be breaking for a 5-week Passover recess, and will return to the job after Independence Day on April 21.

For those MKs who were reelected in the January 22 election, having already served in the prior Knesset, they really haven’t been working at full steam since last July. They got time off during last summer’s recess, and then had a break for the election campaign.

And then there's admin

At tomorrow’s session, the MKs will be asked to approve the composition of an organizing committee composed of representatives of all 12 party factions in the new parliament (when Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu are counted together).

The committee will deal with the administrative aspects of the running of parliament, including deciding the temporary membership of the Knesset Finance Committee and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the staffing for all the standing committees and the assignment of MKs’ offices and committee rooms.

Current plans call for the Knesset to meet three days a week: Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The agenda will not be overly full and should allow the MKs to get an early start home. The pace will remain calm until a new government is formed, probably by mid-March. (President Shimon Peres has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government based on his consultations with the leadership of all of the parties.)

An effort will be made to assign members to Knesset committees during the lull, but they will not be fully up and running until a final stamp of approval is given to the assignments and that will, in part, require knowing which parties end up in the governing coalition.

Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, the leader of Habayit Hayehudi, have both expressed an interest in having an MK from their respective parties head the Knesset Finance Committee. United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni, who served in the post in the last Knesset, is also seeking to stay in the job if his party remains in the government. He is not said to be interested in a deputy minister’s post instead.

Habayit Hayehudi has reportedly recently suggested that party MK Uri Ariel take the chairmanship of the Finance Committee instead of an appointment as cabinet minister. Ariel was a member of the committee in the last Knesset. His office issued a statement saying he is currently busy with the business of forming a coalition and not with the distribution of specific portfolios and positions.

On March 15 the Knesset will break for its Passover recess, but when it returns after Independence Day the MKs will return to a heavy schedule of sessions related to the approval of the state budget for this year and next. (The budget for this year was not passed before the January election was called).

The budget, observers expect, will not be passed before June, after the parliamentarians study the budget in detail and spar over where cuts should and should not be made. They go on summer recess at the end of July and do not return until the beginning of October.

TheMarker has learned that anyone seeking a Knesset pass allowing access to the parliament building will have to provide an affidavit promising not to engage in lobbying activity in the building without explicit approval to work as a lobbyist.

The limitations on lobbying are being imposed to combat the problem that the Knesset has faced of people who obtain passes but are not registered as lobbyists, but then engage in lobbying activities once they gain access to the building.

Reuters
Emil Salman