Knesset Amends Basic Laws, Clearing Path for Netanyahu-Gantz Government

On Wednesday night, the High Court of Justice ruled against petitions to bar a lawmaker with criminal charges from forming a government

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Netanyahu votes digitally at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, May 6, 2020
Netanyahu votes digitally at the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem, May 6, 2020Credit: Adina Valman / Knesset Spokesperson's Office

The Knesset approved on Thursday amendments to two basic laws which allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan to fulfill their coalition agreement and enshrine in law the rotation between the two men as prime minister.

This follows the High Court of Justice ruling which struck down petitions against the coalition agreement, as well as petitions to bar a lawmaker with criminal charges from forming a government.

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The amendments were approved by a majority of 72 to 36. The far-right Yamina party, lawmakers from Yisrael Beiteinu, including Avigdor Lieberman and Merav Michaeli from the Labor party abstained.

With the amendments approved, President Reuven Rivlin is now expected to task Netanyahu with putting together a governing coalition after the Knesset hands him 61 signatures backing the premier.

Later on Thursday, Meretz filed a petition with the High Court to revoke the amendments to the Basic Law on the Government and the Party Financing Law that the Knesset approved earlier in the day.

The petition, filed by attorney Yonatan Berman, is seeking to halt the change being made to the Israeli regime in the form of “A two-headed government.”

In addition, the petition aims to "disqualify the formation of an inflated government, the attempt to circumvent the Dery-Pinhasi precedent," which explicitly bars cabinet members from continuing to serve from the moment they are indicted.

The petition also opposes the retroactive amendment to the Party Financing Law in the favor of lawmakers Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel’s independent Derech Eretz faction, which was formed the two split from the Telem faction within Kahol Lavan. The petition says the amendment is virtually “buying power with money.”

Meretz said that that the aforementioned amendments created out of temporary political interests and wrong personal considerations.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu's Likud party and Kahol Lavan released a joint statement saying the two agreed on the formation of a government and its swearing-in next Wednesday, on May 13," after completing the necessary legislation on Wednesday night."

Both Netanyahu and Gantz are took part in the vote, which initially had 1,000 reservations by opposing lawmakers. They have since withdrawn all of them.

The special law amendment committee convened early morning on Thursday for a two-hour debate to vote on the Likud and Kahol Lavan backed bill amending the Basic Law on the Government, which will extend the new government’s term to four years, meaning its term will end in 2024 instead of 2023.

The initial agreement between Kahol Lavan and Likud was to shorten the term of the 23rd Knesset by a year and five months, so that Netanyahu could serve as prime minister for 18 months, as would have Gantz once Netanyahu had concluded his term. According to the coalition deal, a bill to extend Netanyahu’s term could be brought for a Knesset vote if it has the support of at least 75 lawmakers.

The Knesset’s mandate to propose a candidate to form a government, which President Reuven Rivlin transferred to it from Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz last month, expires on Thursday.

Lawmakers, some wearing masks, were scattered throughout the Knesset, in the guest gallery and in the media gallery to ensure social distancing. Near the temporary seats were installed electronic voting stations to assist in the voting.

Last week lawmaker Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid-Telem, said his party would provide Netanyahu with the majority necessary to cancel the agreement if he were to cancel the rotation deal and hold a new election.

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