Bennett's coalition suffers humiliation as two signature bills withdrawn

The coalition was forced to withdraw its signature bills on conversion and limiting a prime minister to eight years in office.

 PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz sit in the Knesset plenum during voting on the new draft legislation last month. (photo credit: FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz sit in the Knesset plenum during voting on the new draft legislation last month.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition suffered two humiliating blows on Monday, when it was forced to withdraw its signature bills on conversion and limiting a prime minister to eight years in office.

The term limit bill, which already passed all its readings but one, was not brought to a vote because, as legislation that would change a Basic Law, it would need the support of an absolute majority of 61 of the 120 MKs. Because opposition MK Avi Maoz has COVID-19, the 61 coalition had to pair off with him, leaving it without the 61 required.

The conversion bill faced challenges from inside the coalition. Ra’am (United Arab List) raised objections after Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich told him it would lead to Muslims converting to Judaism and Yamina MK Abir Kara protested not receiving benefits promised to him for the independent workers he represents.

Monday was the last day for the coalition to try to pass its bills before the Knesset leaves for its spring vacation on Wednesday night. That means the conversion and term limit bills will not be able to be raised until the Knesset returns from the break on May 9.

Last week, the coalition failed to pass the term limit bill and legislation that would change the makeup of the body that will select the next chief rabbis in December.

 Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum, February 7, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset plenum, February 7, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Likud celebrated the victories at its faction meeting on Monday. Likud faction head Yariv Levin mocked the coalition, saying he had set a record for bills passed by the opposition. Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu compared Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid to rabbits.

A dispute within the coalition was resolved on Monday when National Insurance Institute director-general Meir Spiegler was appointed by Bennett and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (Blue and White) to head the operation tasked with absorbing Ukrainian Jewish immigrants into Israel.

Tamano-Shata had threatened to resign if a project manager was appointed who would make decisions over her head. Bennett agreed to Tamana-Shata’s recommendation that Spiegler head a task force under her.

“The trials of the Jews in Ukraine are a test for us, we are expecting at least tens of thousands of olim [immigrants],” said Tamano-Shata, “I’m glad that this arrangement has been made.”

Sarah Ben-Nun contributed to this report.