Knesset officially disperses ahead of early election

Despite its legal dispersal, the Knesset will continue passing laws next week, but only those that the coalition and opposition support.

December 26, 2018 18:50
3 minute read.
House committee approves bill to disperse the Knesset, December 26th, 2018.

House committee approves bill to disperse the Knesset, December 26th, 2018.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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The bill to dissolve the 20th Knesset passed all three plenum votes on Wednesday, meaning the election campaign period has officially begun.

The final vote count was 102 in favor of dispersing the Knesset and two opposed. One of the dissenting MKs was Yehudah Glick of the Likud, protesting that his bill to outlaw advertising tobacco products is not on the agenda to go to a final vote next week, when there are two more days of voting on bills scheduled.

Although all of the Knesset’s parties agreed to disperse and go to an election on April 9, many MKs seized the opportunity to give what could be their last speech on the parliamentary stage, so the legislative process took over 10 hours.

Some, like Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), took the opportunity to tout the government’s achievements. Levin focused on the Jewish Nation-State Law, which he called “a faithful representation of the Zionist tradition on which Israel was established.”

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) called the upcoming election an “emergency,” saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must be defeated, because his government passes laws that “force us to wave a flag but change the values that the flag represents.”

Earlier Wednesday, Knesset House Committee chairman Miki Zohar (Likud) made a last-minute attempt to delay the Knesset’s dissolution so that more laws can be passed, including his own bill to institute censorship of pornographic content on the Internet, from which people could opt out. Another bill Zohar demanded be passed was one that would set a two-year deadline for legalizing dozens of outposts in the West Bank.

After nearly two hours of delay and pleading by coalition chairman David Amsalem to Zohar, the House Committee voted on the bill, moving it on to the Knesset plenum. The bill had to go through the committee to waive the usual six-week waiting period for new bills to reach the plenum.

But Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said he would not allow any more bills to be added to Wednesday’s agenda and he will not bring the parliamentary meeting to a close until the law to dissolve the Knesset passes.

“Two days ago, I invited the heads of all the parties to my office. We reached a clear agreement on several issues: the elections will be held on April 9, and throughout the day on Wednesday, the law to disperse the Knesset will pass a second and third reading,” Edelstein said.

“I am announcing here and now that this session will not end so long as the law to disperse the Knesset does not pass a second and third reading,” he added. “If that’s today, then today. If it’s tomorrow, then tomorrow or next week.”

After passing in the Knesset plenum in its first reading, the bill returned to the House Committee, which should have been mostly a formality. But the meeting dragged on when scandal-prone Likud MK Oren Hazan insisted on being allowed to give a speech in the plenum, even though all parties had agreed to forgo additional speeches.

During the meeting, Hazan called Yesh Atid MK Pnina Tamano-Shata a “token immigrant” who should be quiet. Tamano-Shata responded: “I am a proud, black, Israeli woman. I will not be silenced. Shame on you!”

After some cajoling, and after Zohar mocked Hazan’s new hairstyle, asking if it is a toupee, Hazan backed down from his demand.

Despite its legal dispersal, the Knesset will continue passing laws next week, but only those that the coalition and opposition agree upon.

Glick’s anti-smoking bill has thus far been unopposed in the Knesset, but he said he has heard persistent rumors of pressure from tobacco lobbyists who are holding it back.

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