Knesset dispersal process hampered as coalition, opposition resume talks on details

Key House Committee meeting repeatedly delayed to give MKs time to discuss election date and additional legislation, amid opposition efforts to form alternative government

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Yamina MK Nir Orbach leads a House Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yamina MK Nir Orbach leads a House Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

A key parliamentary committee had yet to discuss advancing legislation to disperse the 24th Knesset on Monday afternoon, after continued delays that have prevented the bill from progressing further amid long-shot efforts by the opposition to form an alternative government rather than call elections.

The House Committee meeting came as coalition and opposition lawmakers resumed their negotiations — which had been stalled since Wednesday — on finalizing some details for wrapping up the current Knesset. A source in outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party said that the coalition and opposition were discussing final wrap-up items, such as setting a date for elections, deciding which pieces of legislation would be passed before the Knesset disperses, and the pace of the dispersal process.

Although 11 separate dispersal bills passed their preliminary readings on Wednesday with broad-based support, they have been stymied from advancing further until the House Committee meets. The committee chair, Yamina’s renegade MK Nir Orbach, who has allied himself with the opposition, first delayed the committee meeting from last week until Monday, and then repeatedly delayed the meeting throughout the morning and afternoon, in order to give the opposition more time to try to form an alternative coalition without resorting to elections – a process that has yet to bear fruit.

On Sunday, a Knesset legal adviser said that Orbach could not unduly delay the bill.

After the committee meeting began around 1 p.m., it was halted at the request of coalition whip Boaz Toporovsky to give the negotiators time.

The coalition’s majority within the House Committee is expected to send the bill to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for a review, necessary before the bill can be brought to the plenum for its first reading later on Monday. Headed by coalition-loyal Labor MK Gilad Kariv, that committee is viewed as a more reliable address to expedite the dispersal process.

Once the bill passes its first plenum vote, it will need to undergo an additional review process and two more votes before coming into effect. This process might be completed as quickly as Monday evening, but because it depends on a degree of opposition cooperation, it will likely stretch out later into the week.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, right, sitting alongside Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, center, and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 26, 2022. (Yoav Dudkevitch)

Since Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s announcement a week ago that they plan to end their government and send Israel to its fifth election in three and a half years, Israel’s fractious political spectrum has been aligned in understanding that the 36th government’s days are numbered. However, the coalition and opposition are currently locked in a fight as to how and under what terms the current government will break apart.

The government wants a quick dispersal process, which will put Lapid in the prime minister’s chair as caretaker once dissolution completes. The Likud-led opposition would prefer to reseat its leader, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under a right-religious coalition formed by reshuffling seats from within the current Knesset, without elections.

Although many right-wing opposition lawmakers have projected confidence about their election prospects, current polls predict a deadlock, although Bennett’s Yamina party could end up entering a Netanyahu-led government — giving it the necessary majority — as it has never ruled out that scenario.

The coalition sports a sizable right-wing contingent of parties who allied with the government to block Netanyahu’s continued grip on power. Some of these politicians have softened their stance against Netanyahu in recent days, including to the point of saying they would sit with him, even in an alternative government within the current Knesset.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, Orbach had been largely incommunicado with other lawmakers in the past few days, with the coalition’s acting whip saying on Sunday that Orbach was not answering his questions about dispersal.

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