(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The coalition has agreed to hold its fire for the next three weeks, following a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to put all controversial legislation on hold until after January 20.
Two weeks ago, Bayit Yehudi agreed to wait until after President- elect Donald Trump’s inauguration to push forward a bill that would retroactively legalize nearly 4,000 West Bank homes built on what the High Court considers private property.
Now The Jerusalem Post has learned from several sources in the coalition that the legislative freeze has been extended to all controversial matters.
This includes the contested “muezzin bill” that would limit the hours and decibels when the Muslim call to prayer can be made publicly. The limitations would apply to all religious institutions with outdoor loudspeakers. Progress on the bill, proposed by Bayit Yehudi MK Motti Yogev, was held up earlier this month, even though Yogev and UTJ representatives came to an agreement that it would apply only at night, because Netanyahu sought a draft with a broader scope.
Another controversial bill put on hold is a Shas initiative that would circumvent the government’s resolution to allow pluralist prayer at the Western Wall, by imposing fines and even prison sentences on anyone who does so. Unlike the muezzin bill’s early draft, the Kotel bill has not passed a Ministerial Committee for Legislation vote.
The fact that the bills have been set aside for the coming weeks does not necessarily reflect on how the coalition will choose to move forward after that point.
Netanyahu has publicly said that the current diplomatic climate is “sensitive,” in reference to the settlement legalization bill, which explains why he wants to wait with it until there is a new US president who appears to be less likely to criticize it.
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The other initiatives, however, are less likely to be a diplomatic issue. While the Arab League and media in the Muslim world expressed outrage over the muezzin bill, Western diplomats have admitted in closed conversations that they have similar noise restrictions. The Kotel bill may upset many of Diaspora Jewry, but the chances of the Obama Administration commenting on it are slim.
Still, with the last few months of controversy about the Amona outpost, the aforementioned bills, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and other areas, Netanyahu may just want a few weeks without constantly having to put out political fires, a coalition source posited, pointing out that there is no rush to pass the controversial bills before January 20, anyway.
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