Opposition may bring Knesset dispersal bill for preliminary vote on Wednesday

Netanyahu-led bloc will pull back proposal if it sees it cannot get a majority; reports say move may be an attempt to pressure Yamina’s Orbach to fully leave coalition

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a no-confidence motion against the government at the Knesset,  May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a no-confidence motion against the government at the Knesset, May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The opposition has reportedly decided it will bring a bill to disperse the Knesset and force fresh elections for a preliminary vote on Wednesday, but may withdraw it if not assured of a majority.

If successful in a preliminary vote, for which only a simple Knesset majority is required, the bill would then need to pass three further Knesset votes with the support of at least 61 of the 120 MKs.

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.

Likud has been reluctant to bring the bill to a vote if it is not sure it will pass, as its failure would mean any similar measure would be blocked for a period of six months.

It was therefore widely reported that the opposition may still retract the proposal if it sees that it doesn’t have a majority.

Ayman Odeh — the leader of the predominantly Arab Joint List alliance which is part of the opposition but not in the right-wing bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu — said Saturday that while his party would vote in favor of a dispersal bill, it did not want the opposition leader to return to the prime minister’s seat.

L-R: Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and Prime Minster Naftali Bennett in the Knesset, in Jerusalem on June 6, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud had previously considered trying for a dispersal bill after Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi quit the coalition last month, but her swift return to the political alliance made the move unlikely to be successful.

Likud had also planned to bring the bill for a vote in May, but pulled it after the Islamist Ra’am party returned to the coalition’s ranks, killing the opposition’s chances of achieving a simple majority to pass the bill in its preliminary reading.

Hebrew-language media reports on Monday said that the bill was proposed this week with the aim of putting further pressure on Yamina MK Nir Orbach to support the Knesset dispersal.

Yamina MK Nir Orbach attends an Arrangements Committee meeting at the Knesset, June 21, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Orbach announced on June 13 his decision to quit the coalition, dropping the ailing political alliance into a 59-61 minority — two seats behind the opposition. Orbach said he would not vote in the coming week to bring down the government, but would instead seek to build an alternative government with a “patriotic spirit” in the existing Knesset.

However, Likud has been urging Orbach to ditch the coalition entirely and join its ranks, though the Yamina lawmaker has denied widespread reports that he is in negotiations with the opposition party.

The Kan public broadcaster reported on Sunday that Orbach had not made any commitment yet that he will support the dispersal bill, and was instead still trying to form a new government without heading for elections.

Meanwhile, the Makor Rishon newspaper, which is identified with the national religious community, said that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last week asked Orbach to resign from the Knesset in exchange for a senior position outside of parliament.

Such a move would allow a more supportive person to take Orbach’s place in the Knesset.

The report said Orbach was angered by the suggestion but did not immediately rule it out.

According to a Thursday report by the Kan public broadcaster, Bennett discussed the possibility of setting up an alternative government with Netanyahu’s Likud party during a meeting with one of his political advisers in Tel Aviv. Bennett’s Yamina party denied the report.

An alternative government could be set up within the current Knesset, without new elections, if another candidate can muster the support of at least 61 MKs.

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