Knesset Gives Preliminary Approval to Netanyahu-Gantz Coalition Agreement

Likud, Kahol Lavan retreat on wholesale granting of portfolios to failed Knesset candidates for fear High Court would cancel it

Benny Gantz at the Knesset on Holocaust Memorial Day, April 21, 2020.
Benny Gantz at the Knesset on Holocaust Memorial Day, April 21, 2020. Credit: Adina Wollman/Knesset Spokesperson's Office

The Knesset on Thursday gave preliminary approval to the coalition agreement signed this week between Likud and Kahol Lavan, and enabling automatic rotation between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz as prime ministers.

Sixty-two lawmakers voted in favor of the bill legitimizing the deal while 37 opposed it. The Knesset plenum approved setting up a special committee to advance the legislation so it may be passed before the end of the time alloted for the formation of a government.

Once the committee is formed, the legislation teams are expected to launch marathon debates on Sunday to pass the bills required by the coalition agreement.

The amendment to the Basic Law: Government will legitimize the deputy prime minister’s new status in addition to the prime minister’s. The proposal prohibits firing the deputy prime minister, and his status will be identical to the prime minister’s in issues pertaining to indictment and having his term halted after committing a crime. Netanyahu is slated to go on trial May 24 for bribery and other felonies.

The Knesset also initially approved an amendment to the Basic Law: Knesset, shortening the Knesset’s term from four to three years.

Kahol Lavan and Likud removed the clause expanding the so-called Norwegian Law from the amendment proposal to the Basic Law: Government, for fear it would be struck down by the High Court of Justice.

The proposal would have enabled Kahol Lavan MKs who were appointed ministers to resign from the Knesset and for MKs from their ticket to enter the Knesset in their place.

As things stand now, resigning ministers would be replaced by Yesh Atid and Telem MKs who are next on the Kahol Lavan ticket, in the order they were elected before the party split.

The coalition agreement signed by Kahol Lavan and Likud consists of several changes to the Basic Law: Government, but requires changers in the Basic Law: Knesset as well. One clause bans the Knesset from passing any law that is not related to the coronavirus crisis at least in the first six months.

Likud and Kahol Lavan also have a veto on advancing legislation throughout the government’s term. Under their agreement, the two parties have the power to block all votes on issues inconvenient to them in the next three years.

The opposition parties’ leaders demanded on Thursday that this legislation be halted until the High Court of Justice rules on the coalition agreement. The leaders of the Joint List, Yesh Atid-Telem and Meretz warned Gantz that “advancing the proposals before the High Court of Justice rules on the coalition agreement could create a situation in which the Knesset passes a law that the High Court strikes down.

“This could lead to a direct confrontation between the Knesset and the court at a most delicate and problematic time,” they wrote.

One amendment Kahol Lavan and Likud submitted immediately grants Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser’s new party, Derech Eretz, party funding. The clause was not part of the coalition agreement, but a temporary provision granting the funds to the new party could go into effect if the Netanyahu-Gantz agreement is approved.



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