Likud says won’t bring Knesset dispersal bill for vote, with coalition back to 60

Faction head says first reading of proposal has been put off, after Meretz MK returns to the fold

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

Likud party head Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and faction chair Yariv Levin (R) lead their party's faction meeting at the Knesset, May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud party head Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and faction chair Yariv Levin (R) lead their party's faction meeting at the Knesset, May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The coalition will dodge another challenge on Wednesday, as the opposition-leading Likud party confirmed that it will not bring a bill to disperse the Knesset and force fresh elections to the plenum floor this week.

Likud faction chair Yariv Levin’s office told The Times of Israel that the bill is not planned for this week.

A Knesset dispersal bill is one of three ways to topple the government. The others are a successful no-confidence vote of at least 61 MKs and a government’s failure to pass a timely budget.

The opposition party had considered trying for the dispersal bill angle after Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi quit the coalition on Thursday, but her swift return to the political alliance on Sunday made the move unlikely to be successful.

Likud had previously planned to bring a dispersal bill up for a vote two weeks ago, but pulled it after the Ra’am party return to the coalition’s ranks, killing the opposition’s chances of achieving a simple majority to pass the bill in its preliminary reading.

Although the dispersal bill only needs a simple majority of voting MKs to pass its preliminary reading, if it were to fail the opposition would be barred from bringing it up again for six months.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks with Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi during a plenum session at the Knesset on May 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Should it cross the hurdle of a preliminary reading, a dispersal bill would move on to the Knesset House Committee in preparation for its first, second, and third readings. As a bill with special standing, the dispersal bill would need to pass a higher bar of 61 MKs on each of its last three readings to pass.

Sitting at a 60-60 seat parity with the coalition, the opposition has been looking for angles to end a government it criticizes as having lost its legitimacy to govern, but to date does not have the numbers to force change.

Opposition parties’ political commitment to work toward downing the coalition has at times conflicted with their ideologies.

Over the past two weeks, a controversy arose as the opposition weighed denying the coalition the cooperation necessary to pass a scholarship bill for recently released soldiers.

Likud party leaders and lawmakers explicitly pushed a line that said they preferred letting the law fail in order to show the coalition was impotent, over enabling legislation that the party ideologically backed.

“We decided as a party that we’re going to be a fighting opposition and that we want to bring down this government,” MK Miri Regev was heard saying in a leaked recording from last week’s Likud faction meeting.

Likud MK Miri Regev speaking to the media after testifying to the state commission of inquiry into the tragedy at Mount Meron on May 24, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“So there is no queasiness [when voting against] the disabled, and there is no queasiness with cases of rape, and no queasiness with battered women, and no queasiness with soldiers, because we all understand that this is the rationale.”

Soldiers are a sensitive touchpoint across Israeli society, with the majority of Jewish society supporting measures for their welfare and Arab society often uncomfortable with lending a hand to members of the security apparatuses.

Coalition Ra’am party members and recently returned Rinawie Zoabi (Meretz) — all of whom are Arab Muslims — sat out the vote early on Tuesday morning. However, the coalition and opposition were able to come to an eleventh-hour agreement that gave the Likud a partial win and the scholarship bill passed its final readings, with the opposition abstaining.

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