New lawmakers sworn in under controversial law

New lawmakers sworn in under controversial law

Seven MKs enter Knesset to take up seats vacated by ministers, but one joins the opposition instead of siding with the government

Blue and White's Tehila Friedman speaks at a conference in Jerusalem on February 11, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Blue and White's Tehila Friedman speaks at a conference in Jerusalem on February 11, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Seven new lawmakers were sworn in on Monday, making use of a recently passed law that enables ministers to give up their positions as Knesset members in order to enable a different member of their party slate to take their spot in parliament.

However, one of the MKs joined the opposition instead of siding with the coalition.

The Blue and White party has made the most extensive use of so-called Norwegian Law, with five ministers vacating their seats for fresh MKs.

MKs Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Einav Kabala, Hila Shay, and Tehila Friedman were all sworn in for Blue and White. The fifth lawmaker, MK Yorai Lahav-Hertzano, who has served as MK for Blue and White in the past, joined Yesh Atid-Telem, the party’s former partner, in the opposition.

Under Knesset law, new MKs who are members of a multiparty, or alliance, slate that splits before the government is sworn in can choose which of the parties to represent in parliament. Lahav-Hertzano used the clause to side with the opposition.

Last week, five ministers from Blue and White gave up their seats — Culture Minister Chili Tropper, Science Minister Izhar Shay, Agriculture Minister Alon Schuster, Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir, and Michael Biton, who is a minister in the Defense Ministry. Deri and Porush also resigned their seats last week.

United Torah Judaism member Yitzhak Pindrus at a party campaign event in Bnei Brak on February 24, 2019. (Yehuda Haim/Flash90)

Another two MKs entered the Knesset Monday, one for each of the two ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

MK Uriel Busso, the deputy mayor of Petah Tikva, was sworn in as a replacement for Interior Minister Aryeh Deri of Shas.

Former MK Yitzhak Pindros of United Torah Judaism returned to the Knesset as he was sworn in as a replacement for Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush.

Deputy Transportation Minister Uri Maklev, also of UJT, presented his resignation to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin and his replacement, Eliyahu Bruchi, is expected to be sworn in on Wednesday.

The Norwegian 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 his or her stead. Under the bill’s new rules, if that minister later resigns from the cabinet, they would automatically return to the Knesset.

At least 12 ministers or deputies are expected to eventually use the Norwegian Law, introducing a similar number of new MKs to the Knesset at an estimated cost of around NIS 20 million ($5.7 million) a year.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas party had originally planned to use the law to allow Rabbi Baruch Gazahay, the next candidate on its electoral list, to enter the Knesset, but Gazahay withdrew his candidacy last week, after numerous videos surfaced of him making disparaging comments about women.

Blue and White Party leader Defense Minister Benny Gantz, second right, meets with incoming lawmakers set to enter the Knesset under the so-called Norwegian Law, June 17, 2020. (Noam Moskowitz)

The Norwegian Law has faced criticism for increasing government expenditure by maintaining ministers as well as the lawmakers taking their places in the Knesset.

Opposition lawmakers have strongly condemned the legislation, saying the government only needs it because it has allowed the creation of so many cabinet positions under the coalition deal that it does not have enough manpower left to sit in parliament as lawmakers.

The entry Monday of Blue and White’s Lahav-Hertzano brought to six the number of openly gay lawmakers in the Knesset. All are men and represent parties from across the political spectrum, including Justice Minister Amir Ohana of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. Five percent of Israeli lawmakers are now openly gay, the fourth-highest figure in the world, according to political scientist Andrew Reynolds.

AFP contributed to this report.

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