Knesset slows down as MKs leave country

Knesset slows down as MK

November 9, 2009 01:30
2 minute read.

With a battle over the drought levy under way and hot political sparring over the role of the attorney-general, the next few days seem likely to be quiet ones in the Knesset, as almost a third of the nation's 120 elected representatives - including 11 of the 39 cabinet members - will be overseas for all or part of this week. The list is headed by the two top officials - President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Peres will be paying a state visit to Argentina and Brazil, and will be accompanied on his South American tour by Tourism Minister Stas Mesezhnikov. Netanyahu - together with fellow political A-listers opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein - will attend the United Jewish Communities/Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Washington. Meanwhile, Kadima MK Dalia Itzik's proposal to repeal the recently imposed drought levy was rejected on Sunday when she asked the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to make it a government bill. The levy heavily taxes water consumed by household beyond the allotted limit. Itzik's bill proposed the reimbursement of duties collected since the law came into effect three and a half months ago. Although Knesset officials emphasize that the parliament will continue with business as usual on Monday, the absences of top officials are likely to leave a mark. When the prime minister is abroad, opposition factions cannot pursue the normal Monday practice of presenting no-confidence motions against him. Similarly, this week, due to the absence of so many of the party's leader, the Likud will not hold its weekly faction meeting, normally scheduled for Monday afternoon. Attendance is expected to be low at Knesset committee meetings throughout the week, especially given that the number of MKs sitting on most committees was already cut at the beginning of the 18th Knesset due to the paucity of coalition MKs available to serve on the panels once 38 of them had been appointed to the cabinet. At least one coalition lawmaker said that Knesset veterans were "running around" trying to engage in "cancelations" - in which each missing coalition member was paired with an absent opposition MK for floor votes so that the coalition would not lose its advantage. With 16 of the 29 legislators overseas drawn from coalition factions, faction whips will have their work cut out for them to ensure that votes on the house floor are passed - or blocked - as planned.

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