Likud, Blue and White backtrack for court

Government to have policy guidelines, bills will be allowed, appointments can be made sooner

NETANYAHU AND Gantz – can they put their animosity aside and serve the public? (photo credit: CORINNA KERN AMIR COHEN REUTERS)
NETANYAHU AND Gantz – can they put their animosity aside and serve the public?
The Likud and Blue and White made a series of concessions on their coalition agreement on Tuesday in a joint filing to the Supreme Court, in hopes of having a positive impact on the court’s ruling on the legality of the deal.
The filing came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the court that because the coalition agreement was sensitive, changes could not be made and could lead to additional elections.
The parties agreed to set policy guidelines for their government after initially saying that no guidelines would be drawn for six months, except on dealing with the coronavirus and implementing US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
The initial coalition agreement signed by Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz ruled out legislation unrelated to those two issues. In the filing to the court, the parties said legislation would not be prohibited but bills related to the coronavirus would take precedence.
After the judges criticized a clause in the coalition agreement ruling out key appointments for six months, the filing changes the limit to only 100 days or sooner if there is a consensus. The decision is expected to impact the long-awaited appointments of a police inspector-general and a state prosecutor.
A bill Blue and White wanted that would allow its ministers to quit the Knesset and be replaced only by Blue and White candidates who are allies of Gantz and not from the opposition Yesh-Atid Telem faction has been shelved, and forming the government will not be dependent on it. A less far-reaching bill will be drafted instead.   
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Thursday on the coalition agreement’s legality after the changes are submitted to the Knesset.
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit late Tuesday responded to the amended coalition deal declaring that the changes – along with a declaration by the parties that their deal could not override established legal principles – were sufficient and meant that he would drop all further opposition to the deal.
Previously, Mandelblit had told the High Court of Justice that the deal as a whole should be approved, but that specific smaller provisions in the deal might need to be fixed or nixed.
The Knesset plenum began what is expected to be a marathon session of deliberations on the bills necessary to form a government on Tuesday morning ahead of Thursday night’s deadline to pass the bills.
Opposition parties submitted 1,000 amendments to the bills in an attempt to filibuster and make Likud and Blue and White miss the deadline. They submitted 9,000 in a Knesset committee this week but they agreed to limit it to 1,000 in the plenum.
Presumptive opposition leader Yair Lapid started the marathon session with a speech condemning his former political partner, Gantz, for legislating the bills enabling Netanyahu to form the government and remain in office until November 2021.
“When you go to elections based on a set of principles you either win or lose but you don’t change your principles if you lose, and you definitely don’t change them if you win, Lapid told the MKs. “This isn’t an emergency government. Last night, the prime minister said in a press conference that we’re on the way out of the emergency situation. He killed the excuse for creating this government.”
During his speech, Lapid addressed the loss of public trust in the political system.
“You don’t fight corruption from within,” he said. “If you’re inside, you’re part of the problem. You can’t put integrity on hold for 18 months and then come back to it. It can’t go on like this. That will be the first task of the opposition: To restore public faith in this house and prove to the public that there are politicians who take their values and their promises seriously.”
Lapid attacked the formation of the government and said that instead of every shekel going to save the economy, it is being used to provide MKs with unnecessary jobs.
“People have lost their jobs, their livelihood, in the past weeks and are drowning in debt,” he said. “They are looking at you and can’t believe their eyes. It’s at their expense, using their money. What you’re forming isn’t a government, it’s an entire job agency – a corrupt carnival of jobs under the auspices of the coronavirus.”
Once the bills are passed on Thursday, Netanyahu will submit the signatures of the necessary 61 MKs calling for him to form the government to President Reuven Rivlin, who will give him a two-week mandate that will end on May 25. The Knesset speaker can then postpone the swearing-in ceremony for one week, making June 1 the last day a government can be formed.
Army Radio reported on Tuesday morning that Netanyahu and Gantz had agreed to complete the government’s formation by next Thursday, May 14. Spokesmen for both men denied the report.
“We are doing everything we can in order to swear in a government as early as possible,” a Likud spokesman said.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.