The coalition and opposition have agreed to dissolve the Knesset by Wednesday, with the final vote to take place before the end of the day on Wednesday, coalition whip Boaz Toporovsky announced Monday.
The possible dates for the election are October 25 and November 1, according to the announcement.
The coalition and opposition agreed that until the election, there will be no attempts to vote on bills that "change the rules of the game."
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This means that the Knesset will not further advance a bill barring a criminal defendant from heading a government, or one lowering the electoral threshold from 3.25 percent to 2 percent. The former is widely seen as a bid to bar opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, on trial in three corruption cases, from being prime minister unless he is acquitted. The second would likely be beneficial to smaller parties that are part of the coalition that are concerned about falling below 3.25 percent in the next election.
The announcement came as the Knesset House Committee finally convened to debate legislation dissolving the Knesset, the committee chaired by a mutineer from Bennett's own party delayed the vote three times.
The House Committee, headed by Yamina MK Nir Orbach, was set to vote on the 11 bills to dissolve the Knesset at 9.30 A.M. to bring them to the first of three Knesset votes necessary for passage. After postponing the vote three times, the committee only convened after 6 P.M.
Members of the coalition are concerned that Orbach, a renegade member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s party, might drag out the process in order to permit members of the opposition to form an alternative coalition without an election.
Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party, said the parties in the opposition, except the Arab-majority Joint List, have agreed to postpone the vote in order to try to establish a government with the current composition of the Knesset.
In response, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a meeting of his Kahol Lavan party that they "will do everything" to prevent an alternative coalition helmed by Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm.
The agenda of the full Knesset depends in large part on what happens in the House Committee. Even if the bills pass their preliminary votes, it is not certain that Orbach will agree to have his committee deliberate on them again on Monday and prepare them for the last two steps in the legislative process – the second and third votes.
With the coalition eager to disperse the Knesset as soon as possible, its members are weighing using their majority on the House Committee to strip the committee of responsibility for the legislation and transfer it to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which is headed by the Labor Party's Gilad Kariv.
Another option would be to advance a dissolution bill sponsored by the Constitution Committee, wait the 48 hours that the rules require and then to bring it to the full Knesset for a first vote on Wednesday. At a Constitution Committee meeting on Sunday, Toporovsky said that he had still not received a clear answer from Orbach regarding a timeline on dissolving the Knesset.
Sources at the office of the Knesset legal adviser were doubtful that the Constitution Committee had the authority to advance the legislation on its own, although Kariv, the committee’s chairman, said the step was approved by the its legal adviser, Gur Blei. Members of the opposition nevertheless objected to the effort to bypass the House Committee and for the Constitution Committee to hold a hearing on the matter.
'Take advantage of every hour'
In recent days, talks have stopped between the coalition and the opposition on a possible agreement regarding when the Knesset would be dissolved and what legislation would be submitted until then. Coalition sources claimed that this was because the opposition was demanding the right to veto the legislation that may be submitted.
But opposition sources said the talks were not progressing because of strong-arm methods by the coalition, and they added that they would be in no hurry to dissolve the Knesset on Monday. The coalition is interested in passing several bills on their second and third votes, including legislation approving COVID compensation grants for the self-employed, social welfare legislation for people with disabilities and public transportation legislation.
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They are also seeking to pass legislation extending the regulations that expire at the end of the month that regulate Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Earlier efforts to pass the legislation failed, and the prospect of legal chaos if they are permitted to expire was a factor in calling the election now, as this would result in an automatic extension of the regulations until after the election.
Bennett told Sunday’s cabinet meeting – his last before he is expected to cede the position of prime minister to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid – that the government has done a great deal for the country’s citizens despite difficulties. He called on the cabinet ministers to try to complete whatever initiatives they can before the Knesset votes to dissolve itself, which is expected to occur this week.
“In the near future, unfortunately, the State of Israel will be heading for an election campaign, during which certain government activities will not be permitted,” he said. “So I am asking that all ministers take advantage of every day and every hour that still remains to clear the desk and that they step up to do everything they can prior to the Knesset’s dissolution. Our responsibility to the citizens of Israel continues during the election period, too.”
Following his opening remarks to the cabinet, Bennett thanked the leaders of the coalition parties, including United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas, for their cooperation.