Legislative blitz to pave way for unity government

Likud and Blue and White are tabling several legislative amendments needed to form a national unity government including a change to allow both Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to serve as prime minister.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Knesset members met Thursday to start work on a mountain of amendments to Israel’s laws that need to be passed in the coming weeks so that a national a unity government can be formed.

A preliminary vote to approve a rotation in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu runs the country for 18 months and then is replaced by Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz for 18 months passed first reading Thursday, Ynet reported.

Israel does not have a constitution and the various pieces of legislation that direct how the government is run specify that a government normally serves for a four-year term. Several of details of the unity agreement Netanyahu and Gantz reached earlier this week do not conform to existing law, forcing the bills to be pushed through so that the new unity government can be approved before the end of May.

Other aspects of the coalition agreement will require amendments to several key laws so that the power sharing agreement will have a legal basis. One of those aspects is enlarging Israel’s cabinet to 36 members, meaning more than 1 in 4 members of the 120-member Knesset will be a cabinet minister. The coalition agreement also calls for two official residences for Netanyahu and Gantz, requiring legal changes, not to mention a budget allocation.

With Likud having only 36 seats, getting additional partners to form a majority meant Netanyahu and Gantz had to please a lot of smaller parties. More amendments are needed to allow two deputy ministers in a single ministry. Another bill would freeze the appointment of senior civil servants, often a source of friction, for the next six months.

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Several parties have filed petitions with Israel’s Supreme Court saying the proposed changes are illegal, arguing that Netanyahu should not be allowed to serve as prime minister given that he faces trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. That trial was supposed to open March 17, but due to the coronavirus crisis was postponed by Justice Minister Amir Ohana who is a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party.

One of the other problematic coalition agreements that will be hard to enact is a stipulation that no legislation other than bills directly related to the coronavirus crisis will be allowed for half a year.

“The government must not interfere in the work of the Knesset by blocking legislation,” said Prof. Suzie Navot, an expert in constitutional law at Striks School of Law’s College of Management Academic Studies.

“Passing laws is the purview of the Knesset and opposition members of Knesset cannot be prevented from legislating,” Navot told Ynet.

At a stormy committee meeting discussing the changes, Yesh Atid opposition member Mickey Levy, former chief of police in Jerusalem, was ejected after yelling at committee members from Gantz’s party.

“This will not hold up in court. I am warning you,” yelled Levy, calling the members trying to change the laws “a bunch of frauds.”


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