Cabinet to vote on greater powers for the prime minister

Proposal would widen PM’s capacity to advance his agenda and block others’; vice premier dismisses notion that move connected to possible Iran strike

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) attending a weekly cabinet meeting in July (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) attending a weekly cabinet meeting in July (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Government ministers were set to vote Sunday on a proposal to grant the prime minister far-reaching powers to push through or block legislation.

If approved, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his successors, would gain the ability to implement an agenda even in the face of opposition in the Knesset or government appointed committees, in what the Prime Minister’s Office called a bid to “strengthen governance.”

If the proposal passed, the prime minister would be able to delay implementation of decisions by the Knesset or the Ministerial Legislation Committee and call further hearings on already approved legislation, effectively granting him the power to block or promote Knesset decisions until his view prevailed.

The new powers would also grant the prime minister the exclusive right to appeal decisions made by government-appointed committees, according to Hebrew news site Ynet, which broke the story Sunday.

The proposal stipulates that the prime minister would be able to effectively participate in and vote on any government committee. In addition, it grants government ministers the ability to vote on decisions or appeals by telephone, enabling decisions to be passed within hours without waiting for the ministers to gather.

Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Negev and Galilee Development Silvan Shalom dismissed speculation that the bid for increased prime ministerial powers is a run-up to a potential Israeli move against Iran, which many in the government and Knesset oppose.

“No one believes that the decision to strike Iran will be determined by a ministerial telephone survey. Nobody, including the prime minister, expects that to happen,” said Shalom in an interview on Army Radio Sunday morning.

Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich slammed Netanyahu for the move, characterizing the proposal as a blow to Israel’s democracy.

“Fateful political, defense, and socioeconomic decisions are liable to be taken without substantive cabinet discussion as required,” she said. “Netanyahu has forgotten that in the State of Israel, such issues are not decided by just one man, or even by two. These are power-grabbing measures that jeopardize Israel’s democracy.”

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