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Pro-Netanyahu bloc forces votes on right-wing bills, seemingly to divide rivals

Knesset okays initial readings on bills to legalize outposts and let MKs override High Court, aimed at pressuring right-wing parties working to form ‘change government’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend the swearing-in ceremony of Israel's Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, on April 6, 2021. (Alex Kolomoisky / POOL / AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend the swearing-in ceremony of Israel's Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, on April 6, 2021. (Alex Kolomoisky / POOL / AFP)

The Knesset on Monday approved a series of votes to go forward later in the day on right-wing bills, in a bid by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of supporters to split the rival bloc of right-wing, centrist and left-wing parties trying to form a government without the incumbent premier.

The votes will put the focus on the Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu and New Hope parties, which are right-wing but are holding advanced negotiations to form a so-called “change government.”

The bills approved to go on the agenda for preliminary readings at the recommendation of Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) include one legalizing West Bank outposts, another enabling the Knesset to override High Court rulings, and another that would allow Israelis to resettle the West Bank settlements that were evacuated as part of the disengagement plan in 2005.

If any of the bills pass Monday, they still need to pass three more readings to become law.

Citing the precarious security situation amid tense clashes between police and Palestinians in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day, Defense Minister Benny Gantz asked Netanyahu to pull the bills from the Knesset agenda.

In a letter to coalition whip Miki Zohar, Gantz called for “responsible leadership” and avoiding steps that will exacerbate the tense situation.

Likud MK Miki Zohar chairs a House Committee meeting on a bill to dissolve the Knesset and hold fresh elections on May 28, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

But Zohar turned down the request.

The Knesset’s Arrangements Committee last week fast-tracked the bills, hours before Netanyahu’s mandate to form a government expired.

Likud had also hoped to advance legislation in the Arrangements Committee that would initiate snap elections for the premiership, but failed to muster the necessary majority.

Typically, 45 days are required to elapse between the submission of legislation and when it can be brought before the Knesset to a vote. Zohar used his position as Arrangements Committee chair to bring to a vote requests for each piece of legislation to be exempted from that 45-day period, thereby allowing for the fast-tracking of the bills.

Left to right: Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid (Miriam Alster/Flash90); Yamina party chief Naftali Bennett; and New Hope party head Gideon Sa’ar (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

While the right-wing Yamina, Yisrael Beytenu and New Hope parties have been engaged in negotiations to join a unity government led by Yamina’s Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid of the center-left Yesh Atid party, all three voted in favor of fast-tracking the legislation to “regulate” dozens of illegal outposts throughout the West Bank.

Yamina and New Hope also voted in favor of fast-tracking legislation that would allow for a majority of MKs to override a particular Supreme Court ruling. Both bills were narrowly advanced through the Arrangements Committee thanks to their support.

However, analysts speculated that none of the bills being discussed by the key parliamentary panel were likely to advance much further as the unity government being negotiated includes center and left-wing parties that oppose them. Likud is hoping that the support among certain right-wing populations for the bills Zohar introduced will force the right-wing lawmakers in the so-called “change bloc” to break commitments necessary for sustaining a unity coalition that has yet to even be sworn in.

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