Likud pushes last-minute bills before Netanyahu's mandate expires

If the bills pass - and most of them have a majority - they would be brought to a vote in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Yad Vashem at the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Yad Vashem at the start of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
The Likud expedited a series of bills supported by the Right on Tuesday in an effort to preempt Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid from receiving the mandate to form a government following the expiration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate at midnight.
The main goal of the Likud was to cause a rift between Lapid and Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett, who are expected to form a government together. Yamina voted for the bills and Yesh Atid opposed them when they were brought to the Knesset Arrangements Committee on Tuesday for votes on waiving their 45-day waiting period. The same is likely to happen when they come to a vote in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.
The sweeping legislation, if given final approval, would change the nature of Israel’s legal and electoral system, as well as expand its footprint in Area C of the West Bank.
The bills include legislation that would initiate direct elections for prime minister, cancel the 2005 Gaza Strip withdrawal, institute the death penalty for terrorists, prevent the entrance of migrant workers, add more judges to and enable the bypassing of the Supreme Court, legalize unauthorized West Bank outposts and cancel Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s rotation agreement with Netanyahu as prime minister.
“These votes will clarify the significance of a left-wing government with right-wing fig leafs,” Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar said.
Blue and White accused Zohar of “political thievery at the behest of Netanyahu” and helping the prime minister personally while harming the public.
The Arrangements Committee agreed Tuesday evening in a 19-13 vote to fast-track a private members bill that would legalize West bank outposts. If passed into law, the bill would allow for 70 West Bank outposts to be authorized within two years and grant them de facto authorization in the interim. After a preliminary vote is held in the plenum on Wednesday, the legislation must still pass three readings and be sent to committees for approval.
The committee also waived the waiting period for the judicial override bill in a 17-15 vote.
“There is no more important bill for returning the public’s trust in the legal establishment,” Zohar said after the vote.
Zohar decided to postpone a vote on the direct election bill that Netanyahu strongly supports because it lacked a majority. Yamina endorsed waiving the waiting period for the bill, but Ra’am (United Arab List) did not, leaving it without enough support to pass.
The Likud expedited the bills before the party would lose control of the Arrangements Committee. If President Reuven Rivlin hands the mandate to Lapid, something that could happen as early as Wednesday night, chairmanship of the powerful committee will shift from Zohar to Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar.
Should Lapid or another politician succeed in forming a coalition, that government would then take control of the Knesset’s legislative agenda. In the interim, however, there is a narrow window of political opportunity for the Right to make substantive legislative changes.
Another bill, which the Arrangements Committee approved 19-13, would also repeal the 2005 Disengagement Law, under whose terms Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, destroying 21 settlements there and uprooting four settlements in northern Samaria.
Passage of the bill would not mean an Israeli return to Gaza, which is now ruled by Hamas, but would allow Israel to rebuild the four northern Samaria communities that were razed in 2005.