(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Knesset leaders met Thursday to form a united front against legislation known as
the Economic Arrangements Bill. This piece of legislation, of major importance
to the coalition, has managed to irk even senior coalition members, who term it
a “Knesset bypass bill.”
In his drive to stop the Economics Arrangements
Bill in its current form, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin met Thursday with the
heads of key Knesset committees.
Participants included House Committee
Chairman Yariv Levine (Likud), Welfare Committee Chairman Haim Katz (Likud), Law
Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), Finance Committee Chairman
Moshe Gafni (UTJ), Economic Affairs Committee Chairman Ofir Akunis (Likud) and
Education Committee Chairman Zvulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi).
meeting, Rivlin and the committee chairs agreed that all contacts with the
Treasury regarding this bill would be via a unified front which included all
committee chairs; or, alternatively, with the agreement of the chairperson
relevant to the specific clause being discussed.
Rivlin has held meetings
in recent weeks with senior government officials and ministers in an effort to
reach an understanding.
It is expected that the bill will be presented to
the Knesset early in the Winter Session.
The meeting with the Knesset
chairs came after Rivlin and the government failed to come to any
Rivlin told the committee chairmen that he will now allow
the controversial bill – which has grown exponentially in size – to be brought
for a vote in the Knesset, provided it retains its current format.
are, within the bill, significant reforms that demand exhaustive public debate,
together with clauses that bypass committees, and cancel out and delay the
enactment of legislation,” complained Rivlin, who served for years on the
Finance Committee before becoming Knesset speaker.
“It is unacceptable
for the Economic Arrangements Bill to turn into a central policy tool – and
instead of supporting the budget, become the principal legislation.”
Economic Arrangements Bill first entered the Knesset lexicon in 1985. It was
introduced alongside the budget to help further economic policies and balance
the budget the government presented. The budget and the Economic Arrangements
Bill are usually voted on back-to-back; the idea is to maintain coalition
discipline throughout their legislative process.
If the coalition fails
to pass the budget, the law demands the Knesset be dissolved, and elections
held. A Knesset feature for over two decades, the bill is a frequent bone of
contention; the annual – and now biannual – Economic Arrangement Bills have a
reputation for concealing pork-barrel politics and rewarding back-room
Contends Rivlin: “This bill is designed to bypass the Knesset, and
is invalid at its core. We cannot facilitate such an antidemocratic tool;
everything that does not serve the budget itself cannot be lumped together in
“To my regret, the government takes advantage of the Economic
Arrangements Bill to pass almost any legislative initiative.
includes initiatives which could go through regular Knesset processes; it also
includes initiatives currently being discussed in committee. It even includes
those initiatives that the Knesset – with the coalition’s support – decided to
The speaker complained that last year, he had repeatedly
requested that the government pass its reform plans through the regular
However, the government “refused because they felt
they could more easily pass the plans through the Economic Arrangements Bill,
which is why it kept swelling. I will not let that happen,” Rivlin
Sources at the meeting said a number of the committee chairmen
expressed their anger that the finance minister had “pulled” legislation that
was under way in their committees – only for the legislation to resurface as
part of the Economic Arrangements Bill.
In one case, a clause pulled from
last year’s Economic Arrangements Bill to reform business registration,
including a “green line” for low-risk businesses, reappeared in this year’s bill
after passing a first Knesset reading. It was still in the Finance Committee
hearings before its final vote.
In a second instance, the bill contained
a plan to add an express lane in Tel Aviv – a plan that had already been
advanced in five hearings of the Economic Affairs Committee.