The Knesset's dispersal process continued to stall on Tuesday despite agreements reached by the coalition and opposition late Monday night.
The coalition agreed not to advance the bill that would block an MK under criminal proceedings from forming a government, as well as the bill to limit a prime minister's term to eight consecutive years. In exchange, the opposition pledged that they would enable the Knesset to disperse by Wednesday at midnight. The sides also agreed on a package of bills that would pass before the Knesset disperses.
But the agreement almost immediately ran into obstacles.
Pressure is now rising on all sides to reach a final agreement since the West Bank emergency regulation that apply Israeli law to citizens of Judea and Samaria expires on Thursday at midnight. If the regulations do not pass, the settlers will enter what Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar called "legal limbo" which he deemed untenable.
Is Israel finally getting a metro underground?
The first disagreement broke out over the exclusion of Labor head and Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli's "Metro Law" from the agreements.
The law sets a framework for expanding Tel Aviv’s budding light-railway network into a full subway system. The project, the largest in Israel's history, includes 90 miles (145 km) of underground rail lines going through 24 cities.
If the bill does not pass into law this week it will be delayed by at least four months until the next Knesset forms. This will cause delays and funding issues, a coalition source said. The opposition wants to block the bill since it is a major victory for Michaeli and for the entire coalition.
Labor MKs argued that by refusing to allow the law to pass, the opposition was harming the public for political reasons.
"We are at the height of the absurd, in which some of the opposition parties' stubborn refusal to pass laws that both sides agree on, whose positive effect on Israeli society is dramatic, no less," said Labor MK Gilad Kariv.
"The Metro Law, which this house labored over for months, is a complex law that is supposed to regulate the central infrastructure project of the next decade. A project that not one Israeli does not understand its importance," Kariv said.
Opposition MKs seek an earlier election date
Likud MK Yoav Kish said in Tuesday's Knesset Committee debate that his party would drop all of its objections to the bill if the coalition agrees to move up the election date from November 1 to October 25. Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich insisted on this demand.
Many of his constituents are students of yeshivot (religious academies), and on October 25 they will still be on their fall holiday vacation and will be able to mobilize in his support. The haredi parties initially did not oppose November 1. However, once Smotrich voiced his objection, they were forced to object as well since did not want to seem as if he cared more than he did about yeshiva students, a source from United Torah Judaism said.
Behind the Dispersal Bill
The second issue that arose was a section of the Dispersal Bill that raised each party's funding.
The bill originally facilitated an approximate 20% increase in each party's funding, which will cost the Knesset NIS 30-35 million, according to a report by the Israel Democracy Institute.
Parties are not allowed to accept donations or take loans from financial institutions, and therefore their funding is dependent on the Knesset.
Yisrael Beytenu objected to the raise, with MK Yevgeny Soba deeming it a "robbery of public funds in broad daylight.
The party applauded the decision to separate the funding from the Dispersal Bill.
"It is known that raising the parties' funding is the Likud's interest to squeeze millions more shekel from taxpayers' pockets."Yisrael Beytenu
"It is known that raising the parties' funding is the Likud's interest to squeeze millions more shekel from taxpayers' pockets," the party said in a statement.
"It is known that raising the parties' funding is the Likud's interest to squeeze millions more shekel from taxpayers' pockets."
Labor also objected. The left-wing party initially supported the bill, since it needs funds in order to hold its primary election, but objected because of the Metro Law impasse.
Following the objections, the committee decided to separate the Dispersal Bill and the party funding issue so that the Dispersal Bill could continue to move forwards. In the meantime, an independent three-person council that is authorized by law to decide the level of funding will meet and discuss the issue. The council will file its conclusions on Wednesday afternoon.
The proponents of other bills that were not included in the final agreement tried to apply pressure so that their bills would pass.
Israel’s membership in the US Visa Waiver Program
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked's attempts to include Israel on the United States' visa waiver list were not included. If they do not pass into law before the Knesset disperses the move will not apply for 2023, and Israelis will have to wait until 2024 in order to travel to the US without visas.
"We are in the midst of an extremely accelerated path vis-à-vis the American government, at the end of which Israelis will no longer need to stand in line at the US embassy. I call on the Likud – let us pass the law," Shaked said in a video.
In a rare intervention in internal Israeli politics, even US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides commented on the issue.
"I've been working around the clock since I arrived to help Israel meet all the requirements to join the #VisaWaiverProgram," Nides wrote on Twitter. "Don't lose momentum now. This will help Israeli citizens travel to the US - put them first!".
The only bill that passed into law this week with support across the aisle was the Disabilities Law.
The new law, which was passed by 42 votes with no opposing votes, will see people with disabilities moved out of the hostels and organized dorms they currently live in and into independent flats within a community.
Ariella Marsden and Tal Spungin contributed to this report.