David Rotem 370.
(photo credit: Jeremy Sharon)
Knesset Law Committee chairman David Rotem (Likud Beytenu) succeeded on
Wednesday in passing a preliminary reading of his electoral reform bill in a
stormy session of the Knesset plenum.
The bill passed in a 51 to 43 vote,
but it must now pass in Rotem’s committee and two more times in the plenum
before becoming law.
Yesh Atid and Hatnua MKs voted in favor, but shortly
thereafter, they vowed to use their coalition veto power to change the bill
completely before its final reading.
MK Ronen Hoffman – who is in charge
of the electoral reform issue for Yesh Atid – said his party especially opposes
a clause in the bill requiring a Knesset majority in order to submit a
no-confidence motion. Hoffman said Rotem violated the coalition agreement by
including the clause in the bill and that Yesh Atid would insist on dialogue in
the rest of the legislative process.
Hoffman hosted a Knesset conference
with electoral reform experts who took turns criticizing the bill.
conference, Hebrew University Prof. Avraham Diskin said electoral reforms must
be made, but he vowed to “scream from every hilltop” against the 61 MK
requirement for a no-confidence motion. Diskin also urged MKs not to raise the
electoral threshold from 2 to 4 percent, as the bill
Environment Minister Amir Peretz told the plenum that his
Hatnua Party – which polls indicate would not make it into the next Knesset even
if the threshold remains untouched – opposes raising it.
affecting no-confidence motions and the threshold, Rotem’s bill would limit the
number of ministers – including the prime minister – to 19, and deputy ministers
to four. It would extend the amount of time a new government is granted to pass
a budget from 45 to 100 days.
“The way things work now with no-confidence
motions that have no chance of passing dominating the Knesset’s agenda every
Monday, we can all go to the beach on Mondays, because nothing substantial will
happen here,” Rotem said.
“This precious time being wasted should be used
on passing real legislation to help citizens.”
Former Knesset Speaker
Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) violated coalition discipline by voting against
the bill, which he said his conscience would not let him support.
electoral reform bill is a mark of Cain on the Likud’s forehead,” Rivlin
“[Former prime minister Menachem] Begin is turning over in his
grave. This is the destruction of democracy. If it passes, we can just close the
Knesset and call it only when requested by 61 MKs. Raising the threshold is
wrong, because we should not prevent voices from being represented in the
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin also voted against it as an expression
of his ongoing protest against being prevented from ascending the Temple Mount.
Feiglin said he opposed the bill as a matter of principle – he would have voted
in favor were he not rebelling against the coalition.
In the stormy
Knesset session, opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) warned Rotem that
if the bill passes it could prevent him from entering the next Knesset. She
accused Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) of having “no shame,” noting that
the Hatnua chairwoman was only recently opposition leader but now was advancing
a bill that would cause great harm to the opposition.
“This bill is
brutal, hypocritical, dictatorial chutzpah,” Yacimovich said. “Are you joking?
If we had 61 MKs we would form our own government.
Meretz head Zehava Gal-On called the bill “a dictatorial step by a wicked
government that is sealing the lips of the opposition” and “an anti-democratic
step that would deal a death blow to Israeli democracy.”
Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid) said at Hoffman’s conference that electoral
reform was urgent in a country where the average government has lasted about two
“When I entered the Health Ministry, I started running, because
I’m worried I will only have two years to get things done,” she said. “It makes
it hard to advance an agenda and to govern. It is simply unhealthy.”