'Mofaz Bill' Targeting Kadima Likely to Pass Knesset Vote Easily

Likud pulling all stops to prevent repeat of last week's defeat in vote on ILA reform.

The Knesset will vote in first reading on Monday on the so-called "Mofaz Bill," which is expected to pass easily despite opposition from several senior Likud members.

After the government's failure last week to pass a major reform of the Israel Lands Administration, they are pulling out all the stops to prevent a repeat in Monday's vote, which is largely why the bill is expected to pass. Among other things, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has imposed party discipline on his Likud faction - meaning MKs who fail to support the bill could be penalized. He has also threatened to fire any minister or deputy minister - from any party - who votes against it.

If passed, the law would allow any group of seven MKs to split off from their party and form an independent Knesset faction. Current law requires at least one-third of a party's MKs to leave in order for the new faction to be legal. The government's main goal in passing this bill is to foment a split in the opposition Kadima party; it has been nicknamed the Mofaz Bill because Shaul Mofaz is considered the MK most likely to lead an exodus from Kadima.

Despite the prime minister's threats, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said Sunday that he intends to skip the vote, as he considers the bill an immoral infringement of the opposition's rights. Rivlin had previously delayed the vote repeatedly, arousing Netanyahu's wrath.

Another senior Likud figure, Improvement of Government Services Minister Michael Eitan, publicly lambasted the bill in an interview with Haaretz last week.

Four Labor MKs also plan to vote against the bill, despite Labor's membership in the coalition.

However, the prime minister is determined to pass the bill, telling his associates that after last week's fiasco it is essential that the government broadcast "stability and strength" in Monday's vote.

Netanyahu would like to hold the final readings of the bill on Wednesday, the last day of regular sessions before the Knesset's summer recess. However, if an opposition filibuster makes this impossible, he plans to finish the process during a special recess session next Monday. He is planning a special session that day in any case, in order to hold a new vote on the ILA bill, which he pulled last week just before the scheduled vote because he lacked a majority.

Kadima is campaigning hard against both bills, with the bulk of its effort focused on trying to shame Labor MKs into breaking ranks.