Cabinet approves expansion of PM's authorities

Yechimovich says changes to Gov't Regulations endanger democracy; Likud scoffs at speculation changes connected to Iran.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu at weekly cabinet meeting 370 (photo credit: Pool / Flash 90)
PM Binyamin Netanyahu at weekly cabinet meeting 370
(photo credit: Pool / Flash 90)
The cabinet on Sunday approved changes to government regulations that will give greater authority over ministerial decisions to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The regulations, which have remained unchanged since 1948, dictate how the government determines policy. Changes to the regulations, laid out in a 51-page document compiled by Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser, give Netanyahu the power to set the agenda for ministerial committee meetings - calling meetings on certain issues or cancelling meetings as he sees fit. This clause of the regulations gives the prime minister the ability to bring an issue to a committee vote repeatedly in hopes of eventually winning approval, or conversely of keeping an issue off the table indefinitely if he so desires.
In addition, the changes will allow Netanyahu to veto decisions made by ministerial committees or overturn a committee's veto until an issue is raised again for discussion.
Netanyahu will also be entitled to hold ministerial votes over the telephone over the course of up to 12 hours, but will also be allowed to shorten the time frame at his discretion.
"The current move further destabilizes the prime minister's decision-making process," opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) stated. "We have crucial decisions ahead of us, and dealing with procedure to weaken opposing voices only increases the fear that decisions are being made with a lack of judgment."
According to the opposition leader, Netanyahu is "attempting to hide behind regulations," and will not succeed.
"This is a move to avoid opinions opposing those of the prime minister – in other words, the defense establishment of the past and present," Mofaz, a former IDF chief of staff, said.
A high-ranking Likud source scoffed at Mofaz and others for speculating that the reason behind Netanyahu's move for increased authority is Iran.
"This is not as big a deal as people are making of it," the source said, pointing out that ministers were notified of the vote on Wednesday, and the details were posted on the government website for the public to see on Thursday.
Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich on Sunday lambasted the changes, calling them an unprecedented, dangerous step that concentrates government power in the hands of one person.
"The fateful decisions on policy, defense and socio-economic matters are bound to be obligatorily accepted without meaningful discussion," Yechimovich said. "We are talking about centralizing moves that endanger the democratic nature of the State of Israel."
Hauser rejected speculation that the changes are part of a ploy by Netanyahu to increase his legal powers in the face of a potential strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Hauser said in an interview with Army Radio that the regulations had not been changed since 1948 and the changes were merely slight reformulations and edits meant to standardize the de facto decison-making process.
He stated that the changes had been in the works for a year-and-a-half and were sanctioned by the attorney-general.