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Incoming opposition prepares to fight Likud’s legislative blitz ‘with every tool’

National Unity’s Elkin pans ‘unprecedented’ effort to pass far-reaching laws before government formed; ministers to hear expert opinions on bills in bid to embarrass new coalition

New Hope chairman Gideon Sa'ar (left) and Housing Minister Ze'ev Elkin speak during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Gideon Sa'ar (left) and Ze'ev Elkin speak during a faction meeting at the Knesset on June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With the incoming government planning a week of frenzied legislative efforts that are necessary to enable its formation, the incoming opposition is preparing its own plans to stymie and hinder those efforts at every turn.

“We will use all the parliamentary tools at our disposal to protest the process and delay it as much as possible,” National Unity MK Ze’ev Elkin told Army Radio on Monday morning, as he attacked what he called an unprecedented effort to pass far-reaching bills even before a government has been formed.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies are planning to pass three key bills that have been demanded by the prospective prime minister’s partners: one that would expand powers for far-right incoming national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir; one that would enable the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party to put a minister in charge of Israel’s West Bank building policy; and one that would clear Shas leader Aryeh Deri’s path to the interior and health ministries, despite his current suspended sentence for tax fraud.

Elkin said the attempt to push through such consequential legislation within eight or so days, without a government, was “highly irregular” and the apparent result of the “complete lack of trust” between the parties in the incoming coalition.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, also of National Unity, was planning to convene the outgoing coalition’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Monday to hear the opinions of various professionals and legal experts on the legislative program. The move has no actual bearing on the Likud-led efforts, and is largely seen as an attempt to embarrass the prospective coalition with professional criticism of its plans.

Once the legislative effort gets underway in the Knesset, the outgoing government is also expected to use tools such as filibusters and the filing of numerous objections and revision requests to the bills under discussion, in a bid to make legislative progress as difficult as possible for Likud and its allies.

Monday is set to see Netanyahu’s close confidant MK Yariv Levin appointed temporary Knesset speaker to chaperone the legislation process, the party announced Sunday night. He is expected to swap that role for a ministerial one once a government is sworn in.

Likud party chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Likud MK Yariv Levin in the assembly hall of the Knesset on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Otzma Yehudit, Religious Zionism and Shas parties are widely reported to have set the policy changes as preconditions for swearing in the new government, and with Netanyahu’s mandate to form the next government ending December 21, Likud must move fast.

Replacing Mickey Levy, the current Yesh Atid party Knesset speaker, with Likud’s Levin is the first step to passing the legislative blitz, as it will allow Likud and its hardline coalition partners to control the Knesset’s legislative agenda. The Netanyahu-led Knesset bloc — Likud, the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the far-right Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit and Noam parties — won 64 of the Knesset’s 120 seats in the November 1 elections.

On Monday, the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee is expected to create committees necessary for discussing and preparing the bills.

The bills are to be brought on Monday for their preliminary readings. After being passed through this stage, they will move to committee to be prepared for their so-called first reading — technically their second vote — likely on Wednesday. After their first readings, they move back to committee in preparation for their second and third readings. Often conducted together, these may happen next Monday. Once they pass their third readings, the bills become law.

Carrie Keller-Lynn contributed to this report.

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