Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense for changing the law to enable him to appoint more ministers faced criticism on Monday in a marathon Knesset debate on the bill.
The bill would cancel a 2013 law that limits the number of ministers to 18, allowing Netanyahu to appoint as many as he wants, which is expected to be 26. Its first reading passed Monday night by a vote of 65-54.
Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, a former Netanyahu aide, presented the bill as merely rubber-stamping decisions made by the last few prime ministers.
He waved an Israel Democracy Institute chart of past governments at the opposition and dared the MKs to call former prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres corrupt.
“We are going to pass what every government over the past 20 years has passed,” Akunis said.
He singled out a government led by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon that facilitated the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and said that in the eyes of the Left, that “political U-turn” justified appointing more ministers. Akunis noted that Netanyahu’s first government in 1996, which had the minimum number of ministers, was unstable, while larger cabinets were more stable.
But Blue and White MK Yair Lapid, who insisted on the 18 minister limit when he joined the government six years ago, responded that a sign should be hung at Emek Medical Center in Afula that an MRI would not be purchased for the hospital, because of the money wasted on unneeded ministries.
Lapid said Israel would survive without the ministries of Intelligence and Jerusalem Affairs, but patients would not survive without the medical treatments they would not receive due to the bill.
“Shame has now died, and it is buried at the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street,” Lapid said.
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz called the bill “political bribery” and called upon Netanyahu to “be a man” and stop both the bill and legislation that would grant him immunity from prosecution.
Opposition factions announced that on Saturday night, they will host a demonstration against political corruption at the Tel Aviv Museum under the banner “Defensive shield for the State of Israel and its democracy.”
The event will be co-sponsored by Blue and White, Labor, Meretz, the Movement for Quality Government, and Israel Hofsheet.
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