Government okays bill that would limit opposition’s powers

Government okays bill that would limit opposition’s powers

Labor, Meretz, and Shas blast as an assault on democracy a bid to raise electoral threshold and impede no-confidence motions

The Knesset plenum (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The Knesset plenum (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a new governance bill Monday that seeks to render the government less vulnerable to no-confidence votes.

The Likud-Yisrael Beytenu-sponsored bill was introduced last Wednesday by Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem to applause from his Knesset faction. Members of the opposition, however, were quick to criticize the motion for being “dictatorial” in granting large parties excess power while stripping small parties of their say.

“This is an important proposal, which will once and for all put to rest the political antics that are simply a waste of precious labor and legislation in public life, and do not help citizens in any way,” Rotem said Monday. “In addition, we will create a mechanism that hinders the splitting of factions in the Knesset.”

After introducing the bill last Wednesday, Rotem, who heads the Knesset Constitution Committee, said the legislation would enable the government to work more effectively. The government and the prime minister shouldn’t be subjected to “extortion and endless parliamentary shenanigans,” he said.

The bill moreover aims to raise the electoral threshold to four percent of the general population — up from 2% — putting small parties, including the Arab lists, at a disadvantage. It also limits the number of ministers that can serve in a government to 19 and calls for a maximum of four deputy ministers.

The bill’s first clause creates tougher stipulations for the passage of no-confidence motions, which opposition parties utilize often, almost on a weekly basis. If it is passed, no-confidence motions will require at least 61 members of Knesset to be signatories, and the submitters will have to propose an alternate coalition. If they are unable to form a new government, the bill stipulates, the existing government will remain in power.

Opposition head Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) blasted the initiative, calling it an “assault on democracy,” and lamented the lack of outcry in Knesset.

“There’s no one intervening to block efforts to actively sabotage democracy and grant new powers to an already-empowered government,” she said at a Labor Party faction meeting Monday.

Yachimovich also criticized Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman for coming out in support of the law while he was on trial for corruption. Liberman “dictates government laws, even though he’s currently being tried, and can’t fulfill his post,” she said.

MK David Rotem (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
MK David Rotem (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Liberman is facing charges of breach of trust and fraud for allegedly using his influence to aid an associate who tipped him off on a police investigation into his affairs.

The centrist Yesh Atid party, which is part of the coalition, also expressed reservations about the proposed government reform.

“From the outset, Yesh Atid has said there is a need for a fundamental change to the system of government that would lead to stability and governance,” the party said in a statement. “Changing the government system is a broad and serious issue that requires dialogue between all the factions, as well as legal experts, and with the public, and there’s no need to act with haste.”

Yitzhak Cohen, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, also in the opposition, said the proposal was a grave violation of democratic process.

“We can’t just sit back quietly and watch this happen,” he told Channel 10 News. “This isn’t an improvement to our system of government. It’s the opposite — [the coalition is] closing itself off in a dictatorship.”

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said the motion would increase the government’s staying power at the expense of the Knesset’s democratic processes.

“The government of Israel has always been strong enough to approve budgets, go to war, and sign peace agreements. What has become weaker over the years is actually the status of the Knesset and its ability to monitor governance,” she said.

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