Knesset session 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset’s long winter session will end officially on Sunday, and after a
dramatic five-month run, it seems almost fitting that it close with a scandal
rather than a quiet exit to a long-awaited recess.
MKs, who in private
conversations had said only hours earlier that they were eagerly looking forward
to the almost seven-week break, were Thursday calling for emergency sessions to
discuss a controversial last-minute vote in the State Control
There was no shortage of scandals, intrigue and... well,
politics during the session, the first half of which was largely devoted to the
government’s successful attempt to pass the biennial budget and the Economic
Arrangements Law by the end of 2010.
For the most part, the opposition
yelled and kicked, but the coalition displayed a steam roller-like tenacity in
Even veteran MKs who have spent years in opposition
began expressing frustration by mid-session with their inability to mount any
viable resistance to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s control over committee
In one committee debate on the Citizenship Law, half of the
opposition MKs stormed out prior to the vote, in protest of what they complained
was unfair treatment.
The other half left after losing the vote, and
confronted their fellow opposition members in the hallway, loudly berating them
over how best to act when they know they have no chance.
of opposition MKs was coupled with – and largely stemmed from – the general
tenor of the session, which was dominated by Israel Beiteinu. The second-
largest party in the coalition may not hold the record for the most private
members’ bills passed during the session, but the agenda dictated by the
right-wing party largely dominated the debate, particularly following passage of
The initiatives that Israel Beiteinu failed to pass were
almost as influential as the 14 laws that did. The party’s push, together with
MK Danny Danon (Likud), to establish parliamentary committees of inquiry into
the activities and funding of left-wing organizations proved to be a failure for
its sponsors, put on hold at the last minute due to a sudden erosion of support
within the coalition.
Nevertheless, the headlines generated by the
months-long debate over the committees went far to polish the party’s right-wing
Among the parliamentary successes that passed in the final days of
the session were the Nakba Law and the Citizenship Law, which led MK David Rotem
(Israel Beiteinu) to announce from the speaker’s podium that the party had
fulfilled its electoral goal of “no loyalty, no citizenship.”
co-sponsor of the successful Citizenship Law and a law to allow small Negev and
Galilee communities to restrict who can move in (he’s also chairman of the
powerful Law and Constitution Committee), is Israel Beiteinu’s power
But even he could not steamroll his way through the morass of
Both the party’s Conversion Bill and the more-limited
IDF Conversion Bill remained frozen at the end of the Knesset session.
addition to the headline-grabbing legislative work by Israel Beiteinu, the
Knesset worked, largely quietly, on a number of heavy and highly-technical bills
that sought to reform major sectors of Israeli society. One of those bills, the
Civil Aviation Law, passed on the last day of plenum voting, while another two –
the government’s Building and Planning Reform Bill, and legislation by MK Zvulun
Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) aimed at reforms in early childhood care licensing –
remained in the works even into the recess.
Despite a rancorous session
characterized by fierce skirmishing between coalition and opposition, two key
bills unified the Knesset nearly wall-to-wall. The Sheshinski Law, which
restructures taxation of Israel’s natural gas and oil resources, passed the
house on Wednesday by a vote of 74-2, with only one faction in opposition, while
the Mine Clearance Law, which establishes an authority to clear non-necessary
minefields, sailed through the house unopposed by any faction.
shows of consensus are likely to become even more unusual in the Summer Session,
as the Knesset inevitably draws closer and closer to the opening of the election
season. But even before the first call to order on May 18, parliamentarians are
likely to be anything but silent – and with unfinished business in the State
Control Committee, the Knesset will continue to make headlines well into the