Stormy Summer Knesset Session Expected

MKs planning series of steps as possible response to declaration of Palestinian state in September; reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah expected to spark clashes between right and left.

After a six-week break, MKs are due back to work this morning for the start of the summer session of the Knesset which is expected to be one of the tensest since the formation of the current coalition.

MKs are planning a series of steps as a possible response to the declaration of a Palestinian state in September. In addition, the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah is expected to keep the plenum busy and spark clashes between the right and left.

Hanin Zuabi
Tomer Appelbaum

While elections may not be on the horizon, MKs are expected to focus great efforts on domestic politics in the coming months in order to ensure their position in the next parliament. Thus, the majority of Labor MKs are expected to be involved in the process of electing a new party leader. MK Shelly Yachimovich, who is vying for the party leadership, went as far as to declare in recent weeks that she was stepping down from the parliamentary committees in which she sits so that she can dedicate all her time to the political race.

The coalition of Benjamin Netanyahu currently enjoys a stable majority and is expected to easily weather the four no-confidence motions that will be filed by the opposition today.

However, there are three scenarios that may result in the breakup of the government in the current Knesset session.

The first scenario will be the result of a decision by MKs on the right to bring the government down as a result of a change in the peace process or diplomatic moves by the Prime Minister. The chances of a serious diplomatic development during the coming three months seem highly unlikely.

Another scenario, which is slightly more likely, is that Shas will decide to go to elections. In the coalition there are concerns that the party leader, Eli Yishai, will want to move the elections forward fearing a deterioration in the health of the party's greatest electoral asset, its spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

Without the rabbi and his active involvement in the election campaign, Shas is significantly weakened, especially if Yishai's charismatic rival, former minister Aryeh Deri, decides to set up a rival party.

The most likely scenario for the fall of the government would be the result of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's decision to opt for elections.

The Yisrael Beitenu leader may have a genuine interest in such a move if there is a decision made, following a hearing, to indict him, thus undermining his party's electoral chances.

Either way, Shas and Yisrael Beitenu are expected to use their enormous political power in order to force the Knesset to accept a series of controversial bills, unleashing a public storm. Shas is expected to try to advance socio-economic policies, while Yisrael Beitenu is expected to challenge the coalition in legislation in matters of religion and state.

Today, for example, Shas is likely to bring to a vote a bill for subsidizing mortgages, which runs contrary to the position of the Treasury. Coalition sources said that Shas is likely to be able to rally a solid majority for its bill - which the Prime Minister opposes - but is unlikely to do so.

The party fears that a lack of dialogue with the Treasury will block the implementation of its proposal.

Yisrael Beitenu is expected to bring back the issue of IDF-based conversion, or a broader law on conversions, which is opposed by Shas, and the ultra-Orthodox party has warned that it regards such a development as grounds for leaving the coalition.