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Knesset to receive 16 new MKs after ministers resign through ‘Norwegian law’

Despite panning previous government’s use of legislation as waste of public funds, parties of new coalition now argue that law ensures MKs, ministers able to fully focus on duties

New Right heads Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R) with Knesset candidate deaf rights activist Shirley Pinto, January 8, 2019. (New Right)
New Right heads Naftali Bennett (L) and Ayelet Shaked (R) with Knesset candidate deaf rights activist Shirley Pinto, January 8, 2019. (New Right)

The Knesset is slated to welcome at least 16 new members this week, as an equal number of lawmakers began resigning from parliament under the controversial so-called Norwegian Law in order to focus exclusively on their duties as ministers in the new government.

The law allows any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in their stead.

When the previous government made use of the Norwegian Law, its loudest critics were lawmakers from the then-opposition Yesh Atid and Yamina parties, who argued that it massively increased government expenditures. But just about every faction in their jointly run unity coalition now plans to take advantage of the legislation. Proponents maintain that MKs who are also ministers do not have enough time to tend to their parliamentary duties and are thus unable to serve the public effectively.

However, some coalition parties appeared more sensitive to expenditure concerns than others, only allowing one or two of their ministers to resign from the Knesset, as opposed to all of them.

In Yamina, Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahane resigned earlier this week, making way for the Knesset’s first deaf MK, Shirley Pinto. On Tuesday, Yamina No. 9 candidate Shai Maimon announced that he was leaving the faction due to its chairman Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision to break his promise to voters not to sit in a government with the Islamist Ra’am party. The decision allows Yamina to move forward with plans to welcome two new MKs — French immigrant Yomtob Kalfon and Russian immigrant Stella Weinstein — after Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and deputy minister in the PMO Abir Kara resign in the coming days.

Yisrael Beytenu is having all three of its ministers — Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, Agriculture Minister Oded Forer and minister in the Finance Ministry Hamad Amar — resign through the Norwegian law, making way for Limor Magen Telem, Elina Bardatz Yalov and Yossi Shain to serve in the Knesset. Shain is a longtime adviser to Liberman in addition to being a political science lecturer at Tel Aviv University.

Three of the four Blue and White ministers will resign, making room for Ruth Wasserman Lande, Alon Tal and Mofid Mara to serve as MKs. Lande is a former diplomat who was posted at Israel’s embassy in Cairo. Mara will become the Knesset’s sixth Druze lawmaker and vows to work to appeal the controversial Nation State Law, which critics say discriminates against the country’s non-Jewish citizens.

In Yesh Atid, only two of its six cabinet members will resign through the law, allowing for the swearing in of Yasmin Sacks Friedman and Tanya Mazarsky as members of Knesset.

New Hope ministers Ze’ev Elkin and Yoaz Hendel announced they will resign, allowing the next two lawmakers on the party list — Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi and former MK Zvi Hauser — to enter the Knesset.

Elkin is construction and housing minister and will also serve as minister for Jerusalem affairs and liaison minister between the Knesset and the government. Hendel is communications minister.

The Meretz party announced that chairman Nitzan Horowitz and party No. 2 Tamar Zandberg will resign under the Norwegian Law. Horovitz is the health minister and Zandberg environmental protection minister in the new government. Replacing them in the Knesset will be former MK Michal Rozin and human rights lawyer Gabi Lasky.

Gaby Lasky, attorney of 16-year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, speaks with Tamimi’s father, Bassem, outside the Ofer Military Court on December 20, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Labor appeared to be most hesitant to exploit the law, announcing this week that only one of its three ministers would resign to make way for former Haifa city council member Na’ama Lazimi to serve in the Knesset.

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