Knesset passes controversial 'Norwegian Law'

The “Norwegian Law,” based on the model of the Scandinavian country’s government, requires each minister to be replaced in the legislature by a candidate from his or her party’s ballot.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN,
July 30, 2015 02:59
4 minute read.
The Knesset

The Knesset . (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The Knesset voted 64-51 on Thursday to pass the “Norwegian law,” which allows ministers and deputy ministers to quit the Knesset and enable the next candidate on their party’s list to enter, but permits the ministers to return to the legislature if they quit the cabinet.

But Likud ministers and deputy ministers were not hurrying to quit the parliament for the next Likud candidate, Canadian-born, Australian-educated Sharren Haskel.

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Ministers and deputy ministers in the Likud pointed fingers at one another, each saying another politician should quit for Haskel. Ministers defended themselves by saying they needed to remain in the parliament to fight for the agenda of their ministry. Deputy ministers said they had just entered the Knesset and did not want to leave.

In Bayit Yehudi, a compromise was reached on Wednesday night. Party chairman Naftali Bennett will quit the Knesset next week to enable former MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli to enter. He will return after six months, and then Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked will quit, followed by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, and then Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan.

In Kulanu, chairman Moshe Kahlon will quit for former Kadima MK Akram Hasoon. In Shas, party leader Arye Deri will resign for former MK Avraham Michaeli.

The other political figure for whom the Norwegian law was passed was former United Torah Judaism MK Ya’acov Asher, who served his first and only term in the last Knesset.

Asher was the seventh- placed candidate for United Torah Judaism in the 2013 general election and he stepped down as mayor of Bnei Brak to take up his position as MK when UTJ took seven mandates for the first time ever in the 19th Knesset.

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UTJ received only six seats in the current Knesset, meaning Asher, who remained in seventh place on the candidates list, lost his job.

The UTJ Knesset faction is composed of the hassidic Agudat Yisrael party and the non-hassidic Degel Hatorah party, with Asher a member of the latter.

It is Degel which campaigned vigorously for the adoption of the Norwegian law to allow Asher to return to the Knesset, since only two of the six UTJ MKs are from Degel owing to the longstanding terms of the political alliance with Agudah and the demographic reality of the two haredi communities when the alliance was first formed.

For Asher to return to the Knesset, Agudah’s Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush would have to resign as an MK. But the current Knesset has witnessed a persistent undercurrent of instability between Degel and Agudah due to the imbalance in the distribution of MKs between the two parties.

Degel argues that the haredi population is now divided evenly between its hassidic and non-hassidic components and that it should have an equal number of MKs. Agudah insists, however, that since there is a schism in the non-hassidic haredi camp, which led a significant proportion of former Degel voters to boycott the election, possibly causing the loss of UTJ’s seventh mandate, the current balance of Knesset representation is still fair.

There are concerns in Degel that Porush may not vacate his Knesset seat because of the antagonism that has plagued the relationship with Agudah in recent months, which has included serious fights over appointments to various committees in the legislature.

And Agudah has also said that its Council of Torah Sages will have to approve any decision, although the rulings of the council are usually a rubber stamp for the recommendations of the political echelon.

A source in Agudat Yisrael told the Post that “there’s still a long time till the end of the Knesset recess” on October 12, but said that he believed Porush would in the end resign to allow Asher to take up the seat, although adding that it could take a few weeks to happen and might only be concluded shortly before the beginning of the parliament’s winter session.

A source in Degel said the party made similar remarks, and emphasized the current imbalance in the number of MKs the sides have, describing the atmosphere between the respective lawmakers as tense and loaded.

The “Norwegian law,” based on the model of the Scandinavian country’s government, requires each minister to be replaced in the legislature by a candidate from his or her party’s ballot.

If the minister is fired or resigns, he or she would reclaim a place in the Knesset and the substitute would no longer be a lawmaker.

The bill is meant to increase separation of powers, changing the current situation in which about a third of MKs cannot fully function as parliamentarians, because they are ministers or deputy ministers, as a central part of a lawmaker’s job is to oversee the executive branch of government.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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