(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The likely expansion of the coalition is good news for incoming coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud), who will start whipping up votes when the Knesset’s summer session begins on Monday.
“As coalition chairman, I certainly want a broader coalition; that would be much easier. I would still manage with 61 MKs, but it would be much more difficult, because now every MK thinks he can make everything depend on him,” Bitan said Wednesday. “More MKs are easier to manage.”
The rebel MKs are the reason for coalition talks, he added, “There are MKs who think they’re their own party, but they were elected as part of a party and they have to respect faction and government decisions.”
Even before Yisrael Beytenu’s ascent to the coalition looked like a forgone conclusion, Bitan, who is replacing MK Tzachi Hanegbi as coalition chairman, expressed hope that Avigdor Liberman’s party would be on his side.
Some very controversial bills expected to come up for votes in the next few months – the bill to suspend MKs who support terrorism, legislation targeting NGOs that receive foreign government funding, the “V15 bill” to ban Super- PACs, and others – will also get a boost if Yisrael Beytenu joins the coalition, Bitan said.
“If the coalition is broadened with Yisrael Beytenu, none of these bills will be a problem, because they’re all right-wing...If we have more right-wing MKs in the coalition, we won’t have a problem at all,” he stated.
Even if the coalition remains with 61 MKs, Bitan said he thinks he will be able to push the disputed bills through.
The soon-to-be coalition chairman promised to avoid the embarrassments the coalition has faced nearly a dozen times in the last year, in which their proposals were voted down or opposition legislation and motions won votes.
“I will not bring up bills if I’m not certain I have a majority, so we don’t look foolish,” he said.
Regardless of how coalition talks end, Bitan said he has some tricks up his sleeve.
“I won’t be a regular coalition chairman, just like I wasn’t a regular Knesset House Committee chairman,” he said, referring to his boisterous demeanor while in the position. Bitan will be replaced at the helm of the key parliamentary panel by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud).
As for the problems with wayward MKs the coalition faced in recent months, Bitan pointed out that they were mostly from the Likud, and said his experience as their colleagues in the past year will help him mollify their rebelliousness.
“I know them and I know how to talk to them. I think I can find creative solutions when there’s a problem,” he said, with confidence. “I think I’ll do the job well.”