The 19th Knesset has barely started passing laws, with only one day of voting on
legislation so far, but its members managed to propose nearly 1,000 private
bills before it adjourned for its Passover recess last week.
member bills” are legislation proposed by an MK or party, but not by the
government or a ministry. Only about six percent of such bills pass, and due to
their large amount, it often takes months for them to reach the Knesset after
being brought to a ministerial committee for a legislation
Meanwhile, the Knesset’s other function – as part of the checks and
balances on the executive branch of government – suffers, as lawmakers spend all
their time on legislation.
As of this week, 19th Knesset MKs proposed 968
According to the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), in the past
decade MKs proposed 12,725 private member bills, as opposed to 915 in the UK,
159 in Australia and 118 in the Netherlands in the same
Politicians and academics have different ideas on how to solve
the problem – which has plagued the Knesset for decades – and where it comes
“The race to pass as many laws as possible is superfluous,” Knesset
Speaker Yuli Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post. “We need to deal with it via a
consensus. MKs see [limiting private legislation] as harming their
For more on Edelstein’s plans for the 19th Knesset and how he
celebrated three Passovers in Soviet prisons, read an exclusive interview with
the new Knesset speaker in Friday’s Post.
Edelstein pointed to the press
as giving undue attention to legislation that has little chance of passing,
motivating lawmakers to propose as many sensationalist bills as
“It’s legitimate to report on the bills, but the MK should know
that the article will probably say how many of his laws actually passed,” the
Knesset speaker said.
According to Edelstein, a balance must be struck to
reduce the volume of private member bills, without reaching the situation in
parliaments around the world where a member is considered successful if he or
she passes one law.
However, Hebrew University Prof. Gideon Rahat,
research director of the IDI’s Forum for Political Reform, said the phenomenon
is so extreme that “major steps must be taken to stop the ball from continuing
“This is a serious failure in the system that will take time
and effort to change. It started to get out of control in the 1980s, and in this
Knesset 1,000 bills were proposed almost automatically,” he stated.
central reason for the continuing increase in private member bills, Rahat
explained, is the personalization of politics.
When lawmakers want to
show personal accomplishments, rather than be team players, they point to their
“How many bills were proposed and how many passed is
seen as a measure of success, especially for back-benchers, who are proud to
have proposed 100 bills,” he said. “In other countries, someone can be a
successful parliamentarian without passing any laws.”
According to Rahat,
parliamentary oversight is neglected, so the Knesset can no longer be the
“watchdog of the government” unless major changes are made.
to be a political reward for oversight,” he suggested.
The IDI suggested
two possible ways to solve the over-legislation problem: Limit the number of
bills, or make it harder to submit.
The second suggestion would involve
including more details in the bills than currently required, such as an indepth
explanation of its effect on the environment, gender equality, the budget and
other possible ramifications.
MK Nachman Shai (Labor) proposed over 30
bills as the 19th Knesset began, most of which were bills that he – or friends
who were not reelected to the Knesset – proposed in recent years that were cut
off in the middle of the legislative process, due to the election.
Shai sees the rising number of private member bills as a problem that can be
solved through cooperation between the MKs and the government.
to reach an understanding with mutual concessions.
MKs will propose fewer
bills, but the Ministerial Committee for Legislation has to be less cruel and
give that legislation more chances,” Shai suggested, estimating that the
committee rejects over 90% of the bills it sees.
“The ministers encourage
turning [legislation] into a show. If the ministers aren’t more lenient, we will
continue to drive them crazy and create a massive load on the committee,” he
Many new MKs do not yet understand that their bills will, in all
likelihood, be voted down, Shai explained, and he is prepared for a repeat of
the situation that prevailed in the previous Knesset regarding private
legislation, which he called “total insanity.”