Shaul Mofaz looking left 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
While Wednesday marked the official end of the first session of the 18th Knesset, the atmosphere in Jerusalem was of preparation for battle rather than of anticipation for a coming break.
With two key bills up for vote during the first Monday of the recess, MKs continued their political machinations in advance of the votes, and the only sign of the coming break was the announcement at 2:00 a.m. from the Speaker's podium - broadcast across the building's loudspeakers - that the summer session had officially been closed.
The four bills up for votes Monday - the Mofaz Law, the Israel Land Association Reform and two economic-related bills - encapsulated some of the session's major themes. The ILA reform is one of the remaining and most controversial aspects of the Economic Arrangements Law, and its separation from the larger bill and its near-defeat at the hands of the opposition and coalition rebels alike were among the first real signs of weakness of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government.
The Mofaz Bill was an early target for the opposition, and was delayed until the last weeks of the session in order to ensure that the biennial budget would be passed before the Knesset became locked-down in legislative quagmires over the controversial 'governance laws' of which the Mofaz Bill was the most controversial of all.
After almost 24-hours straight of opposition filibuster against the measure, which would reduce the number of MKs required to split a faction from one-third to either one-third or seven in the case of parties totaling over 21 members, opposition MKs promised to continue their struggle against the bill's second and third readings scheduled for Monday.
And the coalition was not willing to take any chances - all vacations and even official trips for MKs scheduled for the first week of the recess were canceled by order of the prime minister, to ensure that there would be no votes missing during Monday's voting. MK Danny Danon (Likud) left Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's South American visit early at the prime minister's behest, in order to ensure that he did not miss the Knesset deliberations.
In the wake of the not-so-recess, committee meetings were also scheduled throughout the first week, after dozens of pieces of legislation had gone un-debated during the session, over half of which was dominated by the government's effort to push through the budget and the Economic Arrangements Law.
Among the casualties was the Biometrics Law, which its sponsor, MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima), had hoped would reach its second and third readings on the Knesset floor prior to the end of the session. Instead, Sheetrit was left with a bill that had already passed its committee hearings, and was lying open and exposed to increasing public criticism while he awaited a date for a floor ratification.