Knesset crisis could be over after Rivlin caves in to Kadima demands

The dispute reached new heights last week when Kadima staged a walkout from the Knesset plenum and temporarily boycotted the parliament.

June 21, 2009 01:02
3 minute read.
reuven rivlin in his podium seat at knesset 298

reuven rivlin in seat 248 88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

The crisis in the Knesset over the Likud's electoral reform package could be solved after Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin decided over the weekend to initially present only the least controversial legislation. The dispute reached new heights last week when Kadima staged a walkout from the Knesset plenum and temporarily boycotted the parliament to protest Likud legislation that the opposition considered anti-democratic. Kadima MKs even sang songs in the middle of a House Committee meeting on Thursday in an attempt to filibuster. Rivlin said he decided to end the crisis and accept Kadima's demands to delay a vote on the "Mofaz bill" that would allow seven MKs to break off from Kadima instead of the current minimum of 10 MKs constituting a third of the faction. Instead, at this stage he will only bring to a vote the so-called Norwegian law, which allows one minister from each party in the coalition to resign to allow the next name on the party's list to enter the Knesset and the minister to return to the Knesset if he quits the cabinet. This bill is intended to satisfy Habayit Hayehudi, which wants former MK Nisan Slomiansky to be able to enter the Knesset in place of party chairman Daniel Herschkowitz. Passing the bill will also give the coalition five more MKs who are not ministers who can work on its behalf in Knesset committees. "I will let the coalition bring the Norwegian law to a vote, because it's in the coalition agreement, but the other legislation requires further discussion, so I won't put it in the Knesset's agenda," Rivlin told The Jerusalem Post. "I'm doing this despite the disgusting behavior of the opposition, which broke every democratic norm." Asked about reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had insisted on bringing the Mofaz bill to a vote immediately, Rivlin said: "I'm making the decision. I'm not consulting with the prime minister, because I don't want a refusal. I will do what I need to do to calm things." Kadima faction head Dalia Itzik responded that if she received such an offer, she would seriously consider it. But until then, Kadima intends to continue its confrontation with the coalition in Sunday's Finance Committee meeting and reevaluate its battle in a meeting with opposition faction heads on Monday. "If Rivlin gives us such a deal all I would be able to say is 'better late than never,'" Itzik said. "Until now, the coalition's policies have trampled democracy. We will wait for Rivlin to make us his offer." Rivlin spoke to opposition leader Tzipi Livni over the weekend. She told him she was not bothered by the Mofaz bill, but rather by the Likud's behavior in general. Her associates indicated that she would accept Rivlin's offer and end the crisis. Channel 1 reported on Friday night that Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz told a confidante that he did not support the bill that had been given his name and he did not believe there was a need for it, because he believes the entire Kadima faction would eventually join Netanyahu's government. "There is no difference between the Likud, Kadima, and Labor on diplomatic issues now," Mofaz reportedly said. "We all support a Palestinian state as long as Israeli security is guaranteed. If there will be an offer to join the government, more than half the Kadima faction would support joining. We won't let Livni fail again after she failed twice to form a government." Livni's associates responded by accusing Mofaz of selfishly wanting to be defense minister and reiterating that the overwhelming majority of the faction opposed joining Netanyahu's coalition. They said that such speculation only helped Netanyahu and hurt Kadima. Itzik responded to the reports and the Likud's efforts to pass the Mofaz bill by saying that "if any party ends up splitting it would be the Likud and not Kadima."

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