The coalition agreement between Likud and Kahol Lavan marks another stage in the executive branch’s takeover of the legislative branch.
Politicians like Ayelet Shaked and Yariv Levin like to argue that the gravest problem regarding the separation of powers is High Court intervention in Knesset and cabinet decisions. But the real danger is the Knesset being trampled on by the cabinet, with the fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy – that the government serves by virtue of the legislature’s vote of confidence – turned on its head.
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If the agreement signed this week by Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz is implemented as is, it will mark a new low in the Knesset’s standing. First, the stipulation on the two new representatives on the Judicial Appointments Committee infringes on the principle of the Knesset electing these officials; the legislature is supposed to serve as the source of their independence on the panel.
Consider that one candidate for the two positions is Likud’s Osnat Hila Mark, who would enter the Knesset as a beneficiary of the “Norwegian Law” – because a minister has given up his or her parliamentary seat. Thus Mark will be dependent on Netanyahu: He could decide to keep a certain Likud member from being a minister or deputy minister and thus keep her out of the parliament and off the committee. This shows just how much control Netanyahu will have on the panel’s roster.
The ban on the Knesset legislating on any issue but the coronavirus crisis for at least six months is also a crude intervention in the MKs’ right and duty to enact legislation on any matter that requires it. Such intervention is also inherent in the mechanism in the coalition agreement stating that the Knesset will have to dissolve itself if in the next six months the High Court disqualifies Netanyahu from heading the government because of his corruption indictments.
Other elements in the coalition agreement also detract from the Knesset’s standing. The next election is due to take place in three years, not four, because of Netanyahu and Gantz’s personal interests. Also, the “Norwegian Law” infringes on the voters’ will, distorting the order of candidates on a party’s election slate.
The coalition agreement also runs roughshod over the opposition, quashing its influence in parliament by ensuring that all but two permanent Knesset committees are headed by coalition members. And the agreement completely eviscerates the no-confidence tool by which MKs can forge a new government in the same Knesset.
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In these circumstances, Gantz can’t disavow responsibility and claim that he saved the Knesset’s honor by blocking Yuli Edelstein from returning as speaker. After all, with the coalition agreement between Likud and Kahol Lavan, the Knesset won’t be able to fulfill even a small portion of its vital roles in a democratic regime. Worse, appointing Levin as speaker means wantonly placing the legislature in the hands of a leading proponent of the government’s takeover of it.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.