Yamina rebel seeks to slow Knesset’s end, to allow more time to form alternate gov’t

Nir Orbach holds off on convening Knesset House Committee in order to delay legislation to disband parliament; says he’s in talks to form right-wing coalition without elections

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

Yamina MK Nir Orbach, leading a Knesset House Committee meeting, 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Yamina MK Nir Orbach, leading a Knesset House Committee meeting, 21, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Rebel Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who left the coalition last week, is trying to hold up the legislative process of dispersing the Knesset by refraining from convening the committee he chairs, in order to give the opposition more time to form an alternative government within the current parliament.

On Wednesday afternoon, the plenum passed 11 separate bills to dissolve the Knesset, all of which were sent to the Orbach-led House Committee for their next step. The committee must decide which of two panels will prepare the bills for their next reading — either the House Committee itself or the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. It was not immediately clear how long Orbach could delay convening his committee.

The push to legislate the government’s self-destruction follows Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s surprise announcement Monday, when they said they had “exhausted” efforts to stabilize their minority coalition and would move to call snap elections, Israel’s fifth in three and a half years.

Orbach was the latest MK to ditch the big tent political alliance, which came together last year to oust former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he had 12 years in power. The coalition was ultimately brought down by internal divides related to policy and security. Orbach split with the government in the wake of the most recent ideological fight, saying that he would instead push for the formation of an alternative right-wing  government within the existing Knesset.

Although currently in a race against time, the opposition could swap the current government with a new one without resorting to elections if it manages to wrangle the support of a majority of MKs for a constructive no confidence motion before the Knesset formally disbands.

Speaking to the right-wing Israel National News outlet, Orbach said Wednesday that he was in touch with right-wing and centrist elements of the current coalition to probe the possibility of forming a new government led by Netanyahu.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) smiles ahead of a preliminary vote to dissolve the Knesset for new elections, on June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“There are contacts between [Yamina Interior Minister] Ayelet Shaked, [United Torah Judaism leader Moshe] Gafni, [Blue and White’s] Benny Gantz and New Hope,” Orbach said.

“Everyone knows how to get into elections, but no one knows how we’ll get out of them,” he added.

Gafni has been vocal about his preference for creating a new right-wing government within the existing Knesset rather than another — and possibly inconclusive — election cycle.

Orbach said that while the majority of Yamina supports the formation of a new government within the current Knesset, Bennett’s position was unclear.

“As for Bennett, I do not know if he will join such a government,” said Orbach.

As Orbach prefers forming a new government over elections, he is in no rush to convene the House Committee, confirmed a source close to the lawmaker.

Once the House Committee convenes, the coalition is said to prefer the bill be sent to the Constitution Committee, which is headed by Labor MK Gilad Kariv, who would be expected to run the bill through a rapid process.

With a majority in the House Committee, the coalition has a good chance of moving the bill to the Constitutional Committee once the former convenes.

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