Foreign policy overshadows other issues as Knesset convenes

With violence on the northern border, coalition-threatening divides on domestic matters appear likely to take a back seat.

May 16, 2011 03:32
2 minute read.
The Knesset adjourning for its spring break.

Knesset session 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Knesset was set to resume its regular work schedule on Monday morning, with a full line-up of committee hearings scheduled to discuss a wide range of domestic policy topics.

However, with violence along the northern border and the Prime Minister’s anticipated speech in Washington overshadowing economic issues, coalition-threatening divides on domestic matters – including housing costs and gas prices – appear likely to take a back seat to foreign-policy topics.

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Throughout the Spring Recess, both haredi parties had threatened coalition tension over housing prices – particularly over the Treasury’s reluctance to subsidize mortgages for young families settling in the periphery.

Additionally, Kadima led a campaign of protests against skyrocketing fuel prices – a topic that seemed guaranteed to touch a nerve among middle-class Israelis already feeling the pinch of rising interest rates on mortgages.

Legislation on both of these issues has already been prepared, and is lying in wait for the coalition.

Bills taking popular – albeit, anti-Treasury stances – on economic subjects are a slippery slope for the coalition.

Not only are the haredi parties hard-pressed to support the coalition against them, but populist-oriented MKs within Likud, such as Miri Regev, are frequently reluctant to support the government on such issues.

Bills associated with right-wing ideology are likely to be a major theme of the session, as in the previous two sessions.

One popular legislative target is expected to be the Supreme Court.

With the anticipated retirement of Chief Justice Dorit Beinish approaching, legislative initiatives expected to be brought forward by MKs during the summer session include changing the system of “seniority” by which the Chief Justice is selected, removing the chief justice’s authority to make temporary judicial appointments, and increase the number of justices serving in the Supreme Court.

MKs will see a number of changes themselves. For the fourth time in five years, the Knesset has switched food service providers – always a hot topic for behind-the-scenes debate.

Indeed, the increasingly active organization of parliamentary aides has already raised its eyebrows at the new – much higher – prices in the MKs’ dining room, which will now charge over NIS 40 per meal.

Thirty minutes before Speaker Reuven Rivlin’s gavel calls the plenum back into session, the plenum room itself will receive a long-awaited addition, as disabled MKs join in the dedication of a elevator device to aid them in reaching the speaker’s podium.

MKs Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu), Yaacov Katz (National Union), David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) and Ilan Gilon (Meretz), will all participate in the dedication of the equipment, which is expected to assist them and future MKs, in approaching the podium with greater ease.

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