Bill to increase number of coalition politicians in office clears first vote

Expansion of so-called Norwegian Law, which must pass two more plenum readings, expected to pave way for up to 27 extra lawmakers to enter the Knesset, ease Likud infighting

In this press photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with other senior members of his ruling coalition during a Knesset plenum session, January 16, 2023. (Noam Moskowitz/ Knesset)
In this press photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with other senior members of his ruling coalition during a Knesset plenum session, January 16, 2023. (Noam Moskowitz/ Knesset)

A bill that will allow the ruling coalition to significantly swell its political representation in the halls of power cleared a key Knesset hurdle on Monday.

The proposal to expand the so-called Norwegian Law, which allows a minister to resign from the Knesset while remaining in the cabinet, passed on first reading by a vote of 63 in favor and 54 against.

The legislation will allow large parties to replace as many as one-third of their lawmakers holding ministerial positions with candidates further down the party’s Knesset slate, the latest move to expand the measure and allow parties in power to promote more loyalists.

Once approved, the proposal is expected to ease infighting in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, some of whose members felt snubbed after being skipped over for senior posts during coalition horse-trading with other factions.

Following Monday’s vote, the bill will be sent to committee before returning to the plenum for two more votes it must pass to become law.

The Norwegian Law, named for a similar rule used in Oslo, lets a number of cabinet members from each government party resign their Knesset seats while they hold their ministerial posts, and be replaced by the next candidates on their faction’s election rosters. If a minister later resigns from the cabinet, they would automatically return to the Knesset, requiring the lawmaker who replaced them in parliament to give up their seat.

Currently, the law allows factions with between four and six MKs to replace up to three ministers, factions with seven to nine to swap out up to four ministers, and factions with at least 10 lawmakers to switch out up to five ministers.

The expanded bill will keep the limits for smaller factions, but eliminate the five-seat cap for factions with over 18 MKs. Instead, larger parties would be able replace up to a third of their slate, rounding up, so that the 32-seat Likud would be able to bring in up to 11 new MKs.

It would also allow tiny parties with less than four MKs, today only including Avi Maoz’s single-man Noam faction, to replace half of their ministers, also rounded up, with fresh MKs.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with other Likud MKs in the Knesset plenum on December 28, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/ Flash90)

Several members of Netanyahu’s right-religious coalition have already given up their Knesset seats under the existing Norwegian Law.

Up to 27 extra lawmakers are expected to enter the Knesset under the Norwegian Law, making the total additional cost for the government NIS 35 million-NIS 39 million ($10 million to $11 million) a year over a four-and-a-half year term.

Channel 12 reported that under the proposed expansion of the law, which will enable more ministers to resign from the Knesset, the Likud party could bring a further six lawmakers into parliament at a cost of NIS 11.7 million ($3,361,950) a year to state coffers.

In addition, coalition deals have seen several new ministries established or divided into separate portfolios, with each such move costing around NIS 6.2 million ($1,780,440).

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