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Knesset votes Arab parties out and overwhelming government power in

Reports of the bill and its passage from Ynet, 1) and 3). Reporting and quotation from MKs protesting at the attack on democracy, Times of India, 2).


Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On said of the Governance Bill “This is a dictatorial move by an evil government intent on silencing the opposition.” The bill, which amends Israel’s Basic Law, was ratified by the Knesset on May 8th.


New bill aimed to beef up power of gov’t set in motion

Law proposal, reportedly drafted at PM’s behest, seeks to complicate no confidence votes, raise electoral threshold; critics cite damage to small parties. MK Tibi: They’re trying to muzzle us

By Moran Azulay, Ynet news
May 02, 2013

A law aimed to further swing the balance of power between the government and the opposition to the advantage of the ruling coalition has been set in motion by Knesset Member David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu. The bill, introducing significant amendments to the Basic Law that defines the structure of government in Israel, will go before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Monday next week.

The full title of the proposal, slated for an expedited legislative procedure, is “Increase of Governance and Raising of the Electoral Threshold.” According to senior Likud sources, the bill is drafted at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The first clause in Rotem’s bill purports to significantly complicate the passing of the motion of no confidence. “The people elected the government so it could rule, and we must enable it to do just that,” the MK told Ynet regarding his bill.

Rotem added the prime minister and the government should not be subject to “extortion and endless parliamentary shenanigans.”

As things stand, every Knesset faction can submit a proposal toward a vote of no confidence, a right various opposition parties choose to exercise on an almost weekly basis. This stands to be revoked in the new law, which will enter effect starting with the next Knesset.

Other clauses aimed toward increasing the power of the government state that in the event a vote of no confidence passes, and the appointed opposition leader fails to assemble a government, the previous government returns to its duties.

Also under the new bill, the president’s stamp of approval shall no longer be a precondition for the dismissal of the Knesset.

In addition, the law proposal seeks to limit the number of cabinet ministers to 19 and double the electoral threshold to 4% of the general vote. This controversial motion is seen as targeting the smaller parties — chiefly the Arab ones – which make up a significant proportion of the opposition.

Another clause potentially hurtful to the smaller political blocs is calling off the funding for the election campaigns of those parties which failed to pass the electoral threshold. The practical meaning of this is likely to the obliteration of many fringe parties unable to secure independent funding of their campaigns.

Finally, the law proposes the reduction of the number of cabinet ministers to 19, including the prime minister, stipulating that the number of deputy ministers will not exceed four..


Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Yisrael Beitenu which wants more Russian immigrants to Israel and no Arab parties in the Knesset. He is currently out of formal political action dealing with charges of fraud. Photo by AP/Amel Emric.

The law’s architects state its aim as bolstering the stability of the government. “The current situation, when no confidence motions became a routine matter, though the opposition usually cannot designate a leader, is undesirable,” read the proposal. “The purpose of (the bill) is to enable more effective governing and reduce incentives for excessive fragmentation and divisiveness in the political system.”

Should the electoral threshold be raised to 4%, the 20th Knesset would look significantly different than the current one.

For example, neither of the two Arab parties – United Arab List-Ta’al, which won 3.65% of the votes cast in the general elections, or Balad, which won 2.56% – would have made it into the current Knesset. Also, the joint Arab-Jewish party Hadash (2.99%) would have failed to reach the threshold, and they would have been joined by Shaul Mofaz’s Kadima faction.

“We are talking about a draconian law promoted by people who cannot live with a critical opposition,” MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) said. “The goal is to hurt our representation. If this law should pass it would prove that this new politics is all about muzzling us through enemies of democracy like (MK Avigdor) Lieberman, David Rotem and their ‘brotherly friends’ (a reference to Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett).

“The small parties are not the ones causing instability; rather, the knights of the Right, the settlers, are draining the government,” he added.

The proposal also garnered criticism from large parties who stand to benefit from the move. Opposition Chairwoman MK Shelly Yachimovich slammed the Yisrael Beiteinu bill, saying: “While he sits on the defendant’s bench awaiting trail, Lieberman is busy legislating dictatorial laws, which though they might suit his party, do not sit well with the idea of a Jewish and democratic State.”

“Yisrael Beiteinu and Yesh Atid are two parties devoid of any democratic traits. They are ruled by one man and contain no democratic mechanisms,” the Labor chairwoman added.

Further down the left end of the political spectrum, Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On also didn’t mince words, saying: “Avigdor Lieberman offers Israel a system based on a ‘strong leaders,’ much like the one in place in the dictatorship (of) Vladimir Putin.

“For the sake of governability the prime minister’s strength will increase at the expense of Knesset factions. The prime minister will hold too much power,” Gal-On said.

Yesh Atid also commented on the bill. “Since its inception, Yesh Atid has spearheaded the issued of a fundamental reform of the system (of governance), so as to increase stability and governability.

“MK Ronen Hoffman has already begun working on the issue. The reformation of the system of governance is serious and wide reaching, but it cannot be undertaken in haste,” the party said.


Government okays bill that would limit opposition’s powers

Labor, Meretz, and Shas blast as an assault on democracy a bid to raise electoral threshold and impede no-confidence motions

By Michal Shmulovich, Times of Israel
May 06, 2013

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a new governance bill Monday that seeks to render the government less vulnerable to no-confidence votes.

The Likud-Yisrael Beytenu-sponsored bill was introduced last Wednesday by Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem to applause from his Knesset faction. Members of the opposition, however, were quick to criticize the motion for being “dictatorial” in granting large parties excess power while stripping small parties of their say.

“This is an important proposal, which will once and for all put to rest the political antics that are simply a waste of precious labor and legislation in public life, and do not help citizens in any way,” Rotem said Monday. ”In addition, we will create a mechanism that hinders the splitting of factions in the Knesset.”

After introducing the bill last Wednesday, Rotem, who heads the Knesset Constitution Committee, said the legislation would enable the government to work more effectively. The government and the prime minister shouldn’t be subjected to “extortion and endless parliamentary shenanigans,” he said.

The bill moreover aims to raise the electoral threshold to four percent of the general population — up from 2% — putting small parties, including the Arab lists, at a disadvantage. It also limits the number of ministers that can serve in a government to 19 and calls for a maximum of four deputy ministers.

The bill’s first clause creates tougher stipulations for the passage of no-confidence motions, which opposition parties utilize often, almost on a weekly basis. If it is passed, no-confidence motions will require at least 61 members of Knesset to be signatories, and the submitters will have to propose an alternate coalition. If they are unable to form a new government, the bill stipulates, the existing government will remain in power.

Opposition head Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) blasted the initiative, calling it an “assault on democracy,” and lamented the lack of outcry in Knesset.

“There’s no one intervening to block efforts to actively sabotage democracy and grant new powers to an already-empowered government,” she said at a Labor Party faction meeting Monday.

Yachimovich also criticized Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman for coming out in support of the law while he was on trial for corruption. Liberman “dictates government laws, even though he’s currently being tried, and can’t fulfill his post,” she said.

Liberman is facing charges of breach of trust and fraud for allegedly using his influence to aid an associate who tipped him off on a police investigation into his affairs.

The centrist Yesh Atid party, which is part of the coalition, also expressed reservations about the proposed government reform.

“From the outset, Yesh Atid has said there is a need for a fundamental change to the system of government that would lead to stability and governance,” the party said in a statement. “Changing the government system is a broad and serious issue that requires dialogue between all the factions, as well as legal experts, and with the public, and there’s no need to act with haste.”

Yitzhak Cohen, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, also in the opposition, said the proposal was a grave violation of democratic process.

“We can’t just sit back quietly and watch this happen,” he told Channel 10 News. “This isn’t an improvement to our system of government. It’s the opposite — [the coalition is] closing itself off in a dictatorship.”

MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) said the motion would increase the government’s staying power at the expense of the Knesset’s democratic processes.

“The government of Israel has always been strong enough to approve budgets, go to war, and sign peace agreements. What has become weaker over the years is actually the status of the Knesset and its ability to monitor governance,” she said.


Knesset approves Governance Bill in preliminary reading
Coalition, opposition spar in uniquely bitter, diatribe-filled session; Gal-On: ‘A dictatorial move by an evil government intent on silencing the opposition’

By Moran Azulay, Ynet news
May 08, 2013

In a plenum session teeming with bitterness and aggression to a degree outstanding even by the standards of Israeli politics, the Knesset ratified by a majority of 51 to 43 the draft of the governance law in a preliminary reading, paving the way toward official recognition of the controversial motion.

The bill, introducing significant amendments to the Basic Law that defines the structure of government in Israel was brought before the legislative assembly by Yisrael Beitenu Knesset Member David Rotem, reportedly at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the former FM and Yisrael Beitenu chief Avigdor Lieberman.


MK David Rotem, member of  Yisrael Beitenu but said to be acting for Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Flash90

It is aimed at significantly complicating the passing of no-confidence motions in the Knesset plenum, limiting the number of cabinet ministers to 19 and raising the electoral threshold to 4% of the general vote.

Rotem attempted to explain the law, the full title of which is “Increase of Governance and Raising of the Electoral Threshold,” before the plenum at the start of the session, but incessant catcalls made this difficult.

Numerous opposition MKs called out criticisms of the motion, alleging it represented a tyranny of the majority over the minority. Labor chair Shelly Yachimovich said the bill was “rude, brutal, dictatorial and hypocritical. Are not you ashamed? Don’t you have any self respect? Does public visibility not deter you?”

Yachimovich leveled a bitter diatribe at former opposition colleague and current Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, head of the Ministerial Legislation Committee which approved the bill Sunday.

“You should be ashamed of yourselves. All the ministers voted for the law, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who so recently was head of the opposition,” Yachimovitch charged. “And conducting the whole shebang is no other than Avigdor Lieberman, who cannot even function as minister due to an ongoing trial.”

To the bill’s sponsor, Yachimovich said, “Maybe you will decide that we should expel and dismiss from the Knesset anyone who does not agree with the government?”

Former Knesset speaker and Likud MK Reuven Rivlin was no less critical, saying “Menachem Begin is turning in his grave. This is the wiping out of democracy. The annihilation of the Knesset. You’ll see, they’ll add a clause whereby a minister objecting to the bill will be sacked with immediate effect. In a word, a disgrace.”

Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh, who branded Rotem a “fascist,” had to be restrained and escorted out of the auditorium.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein abstained, having already voiced his objection to the bill in its current form, saying the raising of the electoral threshold risks denying ideological minorities representation in the Knesset and alienating many voters.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was absent from the vote, as was MK Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently on a tour of China. Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid party members voted in favor.

Meretz chair MK Zahava Gal-On responded to the passage of the Governance Bill and said, “This is a dictatorial move by an evil government intent on silencing the opposition.”

“Instead of focusing on changing the governance system, concentrate on changing that which allows its cruel economic policies,” Gal-On said addressing members of the coalition. “Yesh Atid, Hatnua and Habayit Hayehudi were responsible for Lieberman executing his dictatorial move. The problem here is not in the governance, but in the governors.”

The Governance Law
The first clause in Rotem’s bill purports to significantly complicate the passing of the motion of no-confidence. “The people elected the government so it could rule, and we must enable it to do just that,” the MK told Ynet regarding his bill.

Rotem added the prime minister and the government should not be subject to “extortion and endless parliamentary shenanigans.”

As things stand, every Knesset faction can submit a proposal toward a vote of no-confidence, a right various opposition parties choose to exercise on an almost weekly basis. This stands to be revoked in the new law, which will enter effect starting with the next Knesset.

Other clauses aimed toward increasing the power of the government state that in the event a vote of no-confidence passes, and the appointed opposition leader fails to assemble a government, the previous government returns to its duties.

Also under the new bill, the president’s stamp of approval shall no longer be a precondition for the dismissal of the Knesset.

In addition, the law proposal seeks to limit the number of cabinet ministers to 19 and double the electoral threshold to 4% of the general vote. This controversial motion is seen as targeting the smaller parties – chiefly the Arab ones – which make up a significant proportion of the opposition.

Another clause potentially hurtful to the smaller political blocs is calling off the funding for the election campaigns of those parties which failed to pass the electoral threshold. The practical meaning of this is likely to be the obliteration of many fringe parties unable to secure independent funding of their campaigns.

Finally, the law proposes the reduction of the number of cabinet ministers to 19, including the prime minister, stipulating that the number of deputy ministers will not exceed four..

The law’s architects state its aim as bolstering the stability of the government. “The current situation, when no-confidence motions became a routine matter, though the opposition usually cannot designate a leader, is undesirable,” read the proposal. “The purpose of (the bill) is to enable more effective governing and reduce incentives for excessive fragmentation and divisiveness in the political system.”

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