A stormy winter season is expected in the Knesset, as parliamentary activity resumes Monday after a three-month recess.
The winter session’s opening is to be marked with speeches by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will discuss the government’s diplomatic activities, and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor).
Earlier Monday, MKs are already to begin discussing some of the more controversial issues of the day.
The Knesset Finance Committee, led by MK Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) is to discuss the cost of living in Israel, promising to fight to lower prices.
The meeting comes ahead of budget debates, which look to fill the Finance Committee’s dockets in the coming months. The opposition plans to submit thousands of objections and amendments to the budget, and Slomiansky already warned that meetings are likely to continue into 2015. The Knesset has to pass the budget by March, otherwise it would have to dissolve and an election would be called.
While election rumors have come and gone in recent weeks, the budget is often used as grounds to dissolve the Knesset, and since the cabinet already approved the draft 2015 state budget, the likelihood that it sparks an election is slim.
Still, there are several controversial issues at stake in the coming months in the Knesset.
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar is expected to present his bill on illegal migration to the Knesset Interior Committee, days before he plans to officially resign from the Knesset. The battle within the Likud to succeed Sa’ar already began last month when he announced his departure.
Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud) is to host Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Jerusalem on Monday. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat plans to attend the meeting as well.
Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee chairman Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid) called a meeting for Monday to discuss the impact of the Chief Rabbinate’s conversion policy, in light of Netanyahu’s decision not to push forward a government order to liberalize conversions.
MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) plans to push forward the bill he proposed to allow municipal rabbis to perform conversions after his compromise on the matter – to have the government pass a decision rather than a law in the Knesset – fell through.
The coalition is divided on his bill, with Bayit Yehudi opposing it, but supporting the compromise version, and Hatnua and Yesh Atid supporting it.
At least two MKs other than Sa’ar are expected to leave the Knesset in the coming months.
MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima) is a candidate to manage the Antiquities Authority. If he is chosen, he would be replaced by former Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh, as the next two people on the party’s list, both former lawmakers for the party – Israel Democracy Institute president Yohanan Plesner and Ra’anana Mayor Ze’ev Bielski – said they do not want to return to the legislature.
In addition, Hadash leader, MK Muhammad Barakei, plans to fulfill an election promise to resign from the Knesset after two years so that the next person on his party’s list, Nabila Espanioli, can become a legislator.
Barakei is to leave his post toward the end of the winter session, on March 8. Barakei said in the past week that the date is symbolic, as it is International Women’s Day and Espanioli, a psychologist and activist for Arabs’ rights, is female.
On Sunday, a joint study by the University of Haifa and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers found that two-thirds of the public does not trust the MKs and ministers.
Researchers polled 287 people, representing the Israeli adult population, who were asked to rank public institutions and positions on a scale of one (distrust) to five (great trust).
The survey found that 65 percent of Israelis do not trust MKs, while only 13% do. The average trust ranking for lawmakers is 2.22, down from 2.29 last year, which was the highest ever.
Still, this year’s ranking is relatively high compared to the 14 years in which the poll has been taken and is the second-highest it has been.
Similarly, 64% of the public does not trust ministers and only 15% trust them. The average ranking is 2.24, down from last year’s 2.35, once again a record high.
The public has slightly higher trust in the Knesset (16%) with only 61% distrusting the legislature, and a lower level of trust (9%) in political parties, with 68% expressing distrust.