Right-wing bloc boycotts as Knesset convenes to vote on committees

The MKs will enter the plenum six at a time to vote, in keeping with Health Ministry rules.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Knesset will reconvene in a limited format Monday to vote on the formation of committees vital to the legislature’s need to oversee the executive branch and pass laws that will enable the functioning of the government.

MKs will enter the plenum to vote six at a time, to keep under the 10-person limit on gatherings set by the Health Ministry. If any will want to take the opportunity to address the almost-empty hall (and viewers of the Knesset channel at home), they will sign up in advance and wait outside until called in.

Since Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has the formal approval of a majority of the Knesset to form a government, it was expected that once voting takes place, the center-left will gain control of key committees. This includes the all-important Arrangements Committee, which decides on which committees are formed first and who will be their members.

The Likud and its right-wing partners chose to boycott the session entirely and intend to filibuster to prevent the formation of that key committee, which decides the make-up and leadership of other permanent committees.

According to Likud faction chairman MK Miki Zohar, “in the history of the State of Israel,” voting on the formation of this committee and others has “never” taken place without the agreement of both sides.

But Blue and White and the Likud couldn’t come up with a compromise on the number of coalition and opposition members who will sit on the committees.

“It saddens us regarding the dictatorial approach they’re taking led by [Blue and White members] Yair Lapid and Avi Nissenkorn. There’s no doubt this approach will lead them eventually to a decisive democratic failure,” Zohar said.

There are four committees set for the voting schedule today: Arrangements, Foreign Affairs and Defense, Finance, and a new committee to oversee the government’s management of the coronavirus crisis.

Blue and White and its partners, including Israeli Beiteinu led by Avigdor Liberman and the Arab Joint List party, are eager to control certain committees in order to push through legislation that would bar Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from continuing as Israel’s leader.

One of the steps to ensure passage of the legislation is to replace Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein of the Likud. The Knesset Speaker controls the schedule of legislation in parliament. Someone in the role who is favorable to Blue and White would ensure the legislation comes to a quick vote.

Israel’s Supreme Court accepted the decision on Monday of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that the Knesset should vote on a new chairman as soon as possible after Edelstein froze parliamentary proceedings last week. He said he would not take part in Blue and White’s attempt to oust him.

Several right-wing leaders sharply criticized the Supreme Court’s decision, accusing it of making decisions reserved to the legislative branch.

The Likud accused Blue and White of attempting to pass “personal” laws targeting Netanyahu. Blue and White has accused the Likud of using the coronavirus pandemic to stop the Knesset from functioning.