Israeli coalition partners engage in ‘battle of laws’ as unity government frays

Israel’s unity government appears shakier than ever as Blue and White breaks ranks to vote for a law opposed by the coalition of which it is a part.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

It was a law that was supposed to have no chance of passing. When it did all hell broke loose, and some say it may mark the beginning of the end for Israel’s unity government.

The “conversion therapy” law passed on Wednesday when Blue and White broke a coalition agreement to vote for it. Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of the Blue and White party on Sunday said the coalition opposed the law, which makes conversion therapy for sexual orientation (essentially psychological treatment to make gays straight) a criminal offense.

Only an hour before the vote on Wednesday, Nissenkorn did an about-face telling United Torah Judaism’s (UTJ) Moshe Gafni that Blue and White was considering breaking ranks and supporting the law. UTJ, a religious party, is in favor of such treatment and strongly opposed the law.

The last-minute switch left right-wing members of the coalition feeling that they’d been sandbagged. They say they will now introduce a raft of right-wing legislation to teach its left-wing partners a lesson.

Gafni says he will put forward an ‘Override Law’ in retaliation. The law would give the Knesset the ability to override Supreme Court rulings striking down legislation. The idea has been popular in right-wing circles, which view the Supreme Court as a bastion of the Left that has overstepped its authority onto the Knesset’s turf.

Yariv Levin, speaker of the Knesset and member of the Likud party, says he has a package of ‘right-wing’ laws that he will bring forward. One of them, which appears to have the votes to pass, is a law to overturn a Supreme Court ruling allowing bread and others foods deemed unkosher for Passover to be brought into hospitals during that weeklong holiday.

The court ruling at the time had angered religious parties.

This latest and most serious dispute since the unity government was formed in May points to tensions that have existed all along and appear to have only worsened.

“The days have ended when Blue and White serves as a tail to decisions of the Likud,” a Blue and White party official told Israel Hayom.

A Likud official said, “The prime minister doesn’t want elections but Blue and White’s behavior will bring us to it.”

“It’s impossible to continue this way. They think they can do exercises and pass laws against the agreement. So we’ll show them we also know how to do that and there are two sides to the coin.”

The haredi parties, UTJ and Shas, also directed criticism at the Likud’s performance during Wednesday’s vote. If more Likud MKs had shown up the law would have been defeated. As it is, the law still needs to pass two more readings to become law, something which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an effort to appease the religious parties, has said is not going to happen.

However, the haredi parties say they are convinced that Netanyahu wants elections and is allowing the coalition chaos to continue, reports Israel Hayom columnist Mati Tuchfeld.

If so, the real test will be the passing of the budget. The government has until August to do so. if it doesn’t, Israel heads to a fourth election, they say.