Controversial bill to expand cabinet passes hurdle in Knesset

Edelstein initiates 7 days to swear in ministers; Zionist Union submits bill for new election

Israeli Knesset  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Israeli Knesset
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until next Monday at the latest to swear in his ministers after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein formally announced late Monday that a new governing coalition had been formed.
The announcement came as the controversial bill that would delay instituting an 18-minister limit to the next Knesset and permit numerous ministers-without-portolio passed by a 61-59 vote.
It is expected to be passed into law Wednesday night or early Thursday after all-night debates on the bill.
Sources close to Netanyahu said there is still a chance ministers could be sworn in Thursday if the parliamentary maneuvers intended to block the expansion of the cabinet fizzle out. Opposition MKs have issued thousands of amendments to the bill and every opposition MK has signed up to address the plenum in an attempt to filibuster.
The Zionist Union submitted a bill to disperse the Knesset less than two months after the March 17 election. Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog said it would be preferable to use money that the coalition agreements give to sectarian interests on a new election.
“Netanyahu will try to survive with a coalition of 61,” Herzog said. “I don’t intend to help him. I intend to replace him. If not in this Knesset, after new elections.”
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said Netanyahu is expanding his cabinet “because he’s convinced that no one cares” and that the public does not mind.
“That’s always the way with cynical people,” Lapid said. “They are convinced that everyone is cynical like them. He says to himself, ‘they’ll all cry for a few days and it will pass, like it always does.’ He doesn’t know us.
We won’t let it pass.”
Coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin responded by accusing Herzog and Lapid of hypocrisy and cynicism, because they sat in larger cabinets. He said that had Herzog formed the government, he would have paid his coalition partners twice as much.
Elkin was voted to chair a special Knesset committee that is to legislate the bill in the absence of the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee, which has not been formed yet in the new Knesset because the government has not been sworn in.
Only when the cabinet expansion bill is passed into law will Netanyahu start meeting with Likud ministers and MKs and informing them what post they will receive in the new government. He tried to reassure the Likud faction that the appointments would take place soon.
“Dividing portfolios is not simple, because we have so many terrific MKs, but I have to tell you it’s a lot easier than giving posts in the opposition,” he said. “We will be forming a new government in a matter of days. The Likud will have more ministers in the next government even though the cabinet will be smaller than the last one.”
The Likud released a statement late Monday daring the opposition to “stop delaying the votes in the Knesset with baseless arguments.”
The statement said that expanding the cabinet would save taxpayer money by increasing governmental stability and preventing billions from being wasted on going to elections every two years.
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett told his faction that a narrow coalition of 61 MKs can be a unity government if all its components cooperate for the good of the public.
“The test will be how we help each other,” Bennett said. “The success of the government is the success for all Israel.”
Edelstein’s announcement began a seven- day window of opportunity for the swearing-in of the new government to take place. But legal authorities debated how to count the seven days and said the Knesset could not be convened for a swearing- in ceremony on Sunday out of respect for Joint List MKs Basel Ghattas and Aida Tuma Sliman, who are Christians.