The Netanyahu administration won a key victory in the Knesset's House Committee Tuesday morning when the panel voted to allow deputy ministers to vote in Knesset committees.
Under the new regulation deputy ministers can vote only on topics unrelated to their ministerial duties and only in committees that are not charged with overseeing the ministries in which they serve.
Opposition members had blasted the proposal as anti-democratic. When it was clear that the coalition had a majority in committee, both Kadima and Labor representatives walked out when the proposition came to a vote.
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) opened the committee discussion complaining that the proposal had not been brought for a comprehensive debate before a vote was called. Hasson was called to order by committee and coalition chair MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), and Hasson snapped back in response that, "the coalition is turning the legislature into the Likud Central Committee and turning the House Committee into the Likud Secretariat."
Elkin defended the move, arguing that until August 2008, deputy ministers had been allowed to vote in committee.
MK Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima), one of the most vocal opponents of the proposition expressed her hopes that Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin would help prevent the proposition from going into effect. Rivlin has repeatedly expressed discomfort with a series of procedural reforms suggested by his own party.
The Likud faction has had difficulties finding ways to work around the fact that only eight of their elected representatives are rank-and-file MKs, putting the party at a potential disadvantage in committee votes.
"It is impossible to ignore the fact that the management of the coalition - in a situation when forty of its members are members of the government - is hard or entirely impossible," wrote Rivlin, in response to a letter written to him by Avraham in advance of the vote.
Rivlin said that he had convened a legal forum to meet with both opposition and coalition chairs to discuss the proposal to give deputy ministers a vote in committees.