Netanyahu vows new government will not turn Israel into halachic state

The gov't coalition so far succeeded in passing preliminary hearings for three of four laws before Netanyahu's mandate expires December 21.

Benjamin Netanyahu promises on December 13, 2022 that Israel will not become a halachic state. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Benjamin Netanyahu promises on December 13, 2022 that Israel will not become a halachic state.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

There will not be a halakhic state, and the incoming government will lead "in the way of the national Right and liberal Right," incoming prime minister MK Benjamin Netanyahu said in the Knesset plenum on Tuesday.

Netanyahu was responding to a Monday night Channel 12 report that the coalition agreement between the Likud and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) included religion-based laws.

Netanyahu requested that the upcoming opposition "accept the people's decision" and "stop spreading alarms and lies."

The soon-to-be prime minister's comments came during the debate on the Knesset floor prior to the vote to appoint Likud MK Yariv Levin as the new Knesset speaker. The vote passed and Levin officially replaced Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy, who served in the position for approximately a year and a half.

Levy was hailed by members of Yesh Atid, who commended him for keeping a handle on the plenum during the stormy debates that characterized the previous Knesset.

 Newly appointed speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin with outgoing speaker Mickey Levin during a plenum session in the Israeli parliament. December 13, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Newly appointed speaker of the Knesset Yariv Levin with outgoing speaker Mickey Levin during a plenum session in the Israeli parliament. December 13, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid also took to the podium ahead of the vote and spoke out sharply against the incoming government, and against the Likud in particular.

Lapid addressed a hypothetical mother of three who voted for Likud in the November 1 election.

"When you stood at the polling station and put in a ballot for a candidate, is this what you voted for? Is this what you wanted? That with your vote, the most radical government in the country's history will be established?" Lapid asked.

"How do you feel about the fact that the first promise of the new government, the first thing they agreed on, is to pay yeshiva students more money than IDF soldiers? How do you feel about the fact that public transportation in your city will cost more, just because you are not ultra-Orthodox? Because it's part of the agreements. In ultra-Orthodox cities, they will pay less for public transportation. Why? Because they can," Lapid said.

Turning his attention to Netanyahu, Lapid called him "weak, and terrified of his trial," and accused him of being "taken over by people younger than him, more extreme and determined than him."

"Smotrich and Deri control this government," he continued. Netanyahu is a junior partner."

"You won the elections, I don't argue with that, but you did not win and will not win Israeli democracy. The independence of the courts is not subject to the results of the elections. Criminal cases are not subject to election results. Women's rights are not subject to election results," Lapid concluded.

Levin's appointment as speaker may be temporary, as he is a candidate for Justice Minister and the jobs in the Likud have not been finalized yet. Levin may therefore resign in the coming weeks in order to become a minister and will be replaced with a different Likud MK, with leading candidates being MKs Danny Danon, Yoav Kisch, Amir Ohana and Ofir Akunis.

A rush for legislation

Following Levin's appointment, the incoming coalition and opposition dug in for a week-long legislative battle.

The incoming coalition made up of the Likud, Shas, Religious Zionist Party (RZP), United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Otzma Yehudit and Noam began its bid to pass four laws before Netanyahu's mandate to form a government expires next Wednesday, December 21. The opposition began a major filibuster, and will use every tactic it can to delay the proceedings.

The four laws are:

  • An amendment of the Police Law, so that incoming national security minister and Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir receives broader control over the police.

Three amendments of Basic Laws, two of Basic Law: The Government and one of Basic Law: The Knesset, that will:

  • Enable Shas chairman MK Aryeh Deri to serve as a minister despite his suspended jail sentence following a January plea bargain to tax offenses.
  • Enable RZP chairman MK Bezalel Smotrich to serve as a minister within the defense ministry
  • Cancel the current law that enables four MKs to break away from an existing party.

Lapid to Netanyahu: 'We are not your fools'

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced on Tuesday morning that the ministerial committee on legislation opposed all four laws. Since the new government has not yet been formed, this means that the Knesset will be passing laws that its own government opposes.

Sa'ar said as much in the Arrangements Committee that convened immediately after the plenum in order to begin the legislative process on the four laws.

Sa'ar added regarding the amendment to the Police Law that the attempt to fast-track it was a "flaw in the basic legislative processes," as there will not be time for a discussion on the laws' implications on urgent internal security matters, such as on crime in the Arab sector.

The four laws first went to the Arrangements Committee to receive an exemption from having to wait the necessary 45 days for review and debate. Many ministers and deputy ministers attended the committee, and one after the after spoke for as long as they could in order to draw out the proceedings. The Arrangements Committee meeting lasted approximately nine hours, and at press time on Tuesday the bills were on their way to the Knesset plenum, where they will be voted on in a preliminary reading. They will then return to ad-hoc committees and eventually need to pass three plenum readings.

Regarding the Police Law, the outgoing ministers and deputy ministers and soon-to-be opposition MKs argued that it was a fundamental change to the police's role in society and therefore demanded a full, thorough legislative process; that the only reason the coalition wanted it passed before the government is sworn in is that they do not believe that Netanyahu will hold by his word and enable them to pass after it; and that the law itself grants unprecedented power to the national security minister, who already controls policy and does not and should not become involved with operational matters.

Regarding the other three laws, the opposition argued again that there was no emergency and therefore no reason to fast-track the laws; that the Deri Law was essentially legalized corruption, as it enabled the Shas chairman to evade justice; that the law to enable another minister in the defense ministry unnecessarily mixes up politics and security; and more.

The marathon legislative battle will likely drag into next week. Netanyahu may eventually request the remaining four days that he is eligible to receive in order to wrap up the legislation and the distribution of jobs within the Likud.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.