Israel: First law in coalition's legislative blitz passes final reading

The legislative blitz comes as Netanyahu continues negotiations to form a government, with his mandate set to end on Wednesday night.

 Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset plenum, December 19, 2022 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset plenum, December 19, 2022
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A law nullifying the possibility for small groups of MKs to split off from their parties and form a new faction was passed in a third and final reading on Monday, becoming the first bill to pass in a blitz of new legislation that prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s incoming coalition hopes to pass before forming a government.

The new text of the law replaces language that would have allowed groups of at least four MKs to split from their party and form a new faction without legal consequences. Now, a third of a party’s MKs will need to split from their party in a group in order to avoid penalties.

The pending coalition also hopes to pass laws known as the “Smotrich and Deri laws” in the coming week. The laws have already passed their first readings and need to pass two more in order to be signed into law.

The “Deri Law” would allow Shas Party chairman Arye Deri to serve as a minister despite being convicted of tax offenses. The “Smotrich Law” would allow Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich to serve as a minister within the Defense Ministry and be responsible for civil matters in the West Bank.

The incoming coalition will also work to pass a law known as the “Ben-Gvir Law,” which would give Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir increased control over the police force, including control over police policy and protest permits.

The law was green-lit for its first reading on Tuesday. Ben-Gvir reacted, saying, “I want to thank the committee chairman MK Ofir Katz for the in-depth and thorough discussion held in the committee, as well as MK Yoav Kisch who led the legislative process on the coalition’s side. The road to passing the law creating order is still long, but with God’s help, we will finalize the passing of the law in the coming days.”

MKs at the Knesset plenum, December 19, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)MKs at the Knesset plenum, December 19, 2022 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Lapid: Incoming coalition's slogan is 'go jump in a lake'

Before the vote on Monday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid attacked the incoming coalition, stating, “The incoming coalition has a new slogan: ‘Go jump in a lake.’

“This is what the new government is saying to the citizens of Israel. This is their slogan, this is their attitude: Go jump in a lake. Do you pay taxes in this country? Go jump in a lake. Do you work? Go jump in a lake. Do you send your children to state education? Go jump in a lake.”

Lapid added, “They see that it frees them. It’s fun to be a government without the first duty of every government – to work for the citizens, to respect their rights. This is what they always wanted: to be a government without bearing the responsibilities of a government. Because the main thing, the main message of the incoming government is that they only care about themselves. The ultra-Orthodox care only about the ultra-Orthodox, the religious Zionists only care about the settlers, the Likudniks only care about Netanyahu’s trial. Those who are not them, those who are not like them, those who did not vote for them, can go jump in a lake. They will not work for him, they are not responsible for him.”

Lapid continued, “Concerning this I want to tell them, politics is a wheel. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. Sometimes you are in the coalition and sometimes you are in the opposition. Sometimes you tell all the citizens of Israel that they can jump in a lake, and then elections come, and that’s exactly what they’ll tell you.”

Outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) promised to immediately reverse all actions the incoming government will take on Monday.

Liberman stated that the actions by the incoming right-wing coalition do “serious damage to the proper order of governance and the economy of Israel.”

He further called on the heads of the opposition parties to join him in the promise to immediately cancel and reverse all “initiatives, laws, changes in the government structure, budgetary obligations” that are and will be included in the coalition agreements.

Netanyahu continues efforts to form a government as deadline nears

The legislative blitz comes as Netanyahu continues negotiations to form a government, with his mandate set to end on Wednesday night. Netanyahu is reportedly expected to inform President Isaac Herzog that he has succeeded in forming a government by Tuesday at midnight, when the mandate ends, although a government likely won’t be sworn in until next week at the earliest.

Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.