THE KNESSET building..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Knesset ended its winter session with a whimper on Wednesday as its legislators left early for their extended Passover recess.
Unlike past parliaments, which ended their proceedings past midnight on the final day before a break, the current lawmakers completed their debate at 2 p.m., in a move veteran Knesset observers called unprecedented.
Anyone expecting controversial debates and the passage of far-reaching laws left disappointed. Those expecting political paralysis proved prophetic.
That paralysis will be perpetuated now that two new corruption scandals have emerged, which will likely be the political focus for the next few months.
One of the reasons why the political scene was so quiet before the stories broke was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was waiting for the High Court of Justice to respond to the Movement for Quality Government’s request to disqualify Netanyahu’s appointment of Shas leader Arye Deri as interior minister. The watchdog group told the court that Deri should not be permitted to return to the post in which he committed the crimes for which he served jail time.
Netanyahu had told Likud ministers hoping for promotions that he could not distribute available portfolios until he knew Deri’s fate. Now the Movement is asking the court to expand its case to include the material in the current investigation, which could delay a verdict for months.
The cabinet reshuffle that was set to take place is now even more on hold than it was before. Netanyahu has excuses to maintain his multiple portfolios, and everyone else in Likud will keep the posts they currently have.
There was also talk behind the scenes of a national unity government being formed with the Zionist Union. That idea was being pushed by Deri, along with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Now that there is a corruption cloud hanging over the head of Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, whatever talks there were will not go anywhere.
Unless the allegations are proven false quickly, a unity government will not be formed ahead of the next general election.
Before the probe came to light, the next Labor leadership race was in the process of getting postponed. Now Herzog’s potential opponents may want it moved up, but he is still in charge, and he will not let that happen.
That means internal party politics in Labor are also on hold, along with coalition questions, and political promotions.
None of those things were moving before the investigations, and now they will move even less.
If political developments appeared paralyzed before the probes, they will now be completely stuck.
And when the Knesset returns from its extended recess on May 23, at least its MKs will be well-rested.