An Israeli boy, dressed in a Superman costume, escorts his mother behind a voting booth at a polling station in Tel Aviv March 17, 2015.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
After the announcement that coalition party leaders unanimously agreed to hold an election in early April, the excitement in the Knesset was palpable.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was all smiles at the Likud faction meeting, and opposition MKs were spotted hugging in the hallways of the Knesset. It’s almost as if people forgot that a third of them is likely to lose their jobs come April 9, 2019.
In any case, even though all of the factions in the Knesset have agreed on an election date, it’s not official until a law to dissolve the Knesset passes three readings.
Which meant that on Monday, while party leaders shuffled in and out of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s office, other MKs were in the plenum discussing and voting on laws that will impact Israelis’ everyday lives.
But all that is expected to come to an end on Wednesday, when – if all goes according to plan – the Knesset is set to go through the entire process to pass the law to dissolve itself in one day.
That gives the coalition one day, Tuesday, to pass all the laws they’ve been promising to their constituents lately. In other words, those promises probably won’t be kept. Maybe they’ll be part of the election campaign in the form of “we can only get this done if you vote for us.”
Haredi enlistment in the IDF? Not going to happen, because there aren’t enough votes. Deporting terrorists’ families? Sped-up legalization of outposts? Nope, they’re not far enough along in the legislative process. Penalizing parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids? Outlawing prostitution? They’ll have to wait. Only noncontroversial laws that have already been approved in committee for final votes could feasibly pass on Tuesday, while there are many, many more bills that will fall by the wayside.
There’s also Netanyahu’s pet proposal, the “Gideon Sa’ar bill” – to require a president to appoint only a party leader to form the next government. Netanyahu specifically said on Monday that while not passing the law leaves a lacuna intact, President Reuven Rivlin plans to stick to tradition – as in, doing what the bill says even though he’s not required to – so Netanyahu is not concerned.
Speaking of lacunae, there is a tiny chance that we’re not going to an election now. Like any other legislation, the bill to dissolve the Knesset has to pass a first reading, go to a committee for discussion and voting, and return to the plenum for second and third readings. The plan is for all of those steps to happen on Wednesday.
But in May 2012, the coalition decided to dissolve the Knesset, and they brought it to a first vote. Then, while a committee meeting went on into the middle of the night, it seemed that some MKs were trying to kill time and make it longer. At about 2 a.m., Kadima joined the coalition and the bill to dissolve the Knesset was not brought to a final vote. This seems highly unlikely to happen again, but one never knows with Netanyahu. He always has a few more tricks up his sleeve.
Assuming the Knesset is dissolved, the factions will choose representatives for the Central Elections Committee.
New parties will have to register; solo MK Orly Levy-Abecassis has yet to officially start a party, nor has former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz – and others are sure to pop up in the coming months.
And MKs of existing parties and activists will start preparing for primary season. One thing they won’t have to do is fundraising, since a law was passed outlawing it and granting state funding for primary campaigns.
The primary votes will likely happen at the end of January or early February, with the deadline to submit party lists on February 21, subject to Central Election Committee approval.
The primary for the Likud Knesset Knesset list will take place February 5.
We got a glimpse at some of the campaign messages, with most parties making statements: Netanyahu has his list of foreign leaders who want to meet with him, the US Embassy move to Jerusalem and talking tough on security, plus he’s set to speak at the AIPAC Policy Conference on March 24. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid accused the prime minister of selling out to the haredim. Zionist Union is going negative on Netanyahu, while activists hung up “Avi Gabbay was right” signs outside. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon managed to lower the electricity-price hike and says the economy is better than it has been in years. The Joint List called the government racist and says they’ll get even more than 13 seats in the next Knesset.
Monday was the opening shot. We are in for a wild ride that will last for the next three-and-a-half months.
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