Background: 'Stinking maneuver' of 1990 led to strict rules on MK split-offs

Background Stinking ma

In 1990, Labor Party leader Shimon Peres tried to doublecross his senior national coalition partner, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, by conspiring with the Shas Party, under the leadership of Aryeh Deri, to form a new government without the Likud. The attempt stalled when one member of Shas refused to obey his party leader's decision, leaving Peres one MK short of the majority he needed. Peres then persuaded Avraham Tamir, a leader of the Liberal wing of the Likud, to cross party lines in return for political favors to be rendered. The move collapsed when ultimately Tamir could not bring himself to betray his long-time political home. Peres thus lost his bid and Shamir continued to serve as prime minister until new elections were called in 1992. The ploy whereby Tamir was to cross party lines and be rewarded for his troubles was not new in Israeli politics. It even had a name - Kalanterism - after Rahamim Kalanter, a member of the Jerusalem City Council who remained in the coalition after his party, the NRP, walked out. He was appointed deputy mayor in return. Many politicians have since followed in Kalanter's footsteps. But the 1990 political crisis, dubbed the "stinking maneuver" created a new level of revulsion towards politicians and cries for reform from the public which, among other things, led to the establishment of the watchdog Movement for Quality Government. The public criticism had its effect on many politicians, including the chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, Uriel Lynn, who spearheaded a number of legislative reforms, including an amendment to the Basic Law: The Knesset, which was meant to put an end to Kalanterism. The amendment distinguishes between two situations. In the first, a single MK decides to leave his party or, in return for some political benefit, he votes against his party's position in a vote of confidence or no-confidence in government. In the second, a group of MKs decides to leave their faction and form their own or join an existing one. The amendment regarding the first case states that if the MK does not resign from the Knesset soon after quitting his party, he may not run again on the list of any party represented in the current Knesset. If he does not resign, he will also not receive his share of the party funding, which is calculated according to the number of MKs in each faction. The aim of this article is to prevent an MK from making a deal with a rival party in return for the promise of an assured spot in the next Knesset. According to Prof. Suzie Navot of the law faculty of the College of Management Academic Studies, this is the "bad" way of leaving a faction because it is regarded as opportunistic. Nevertheless, there is an exception to this rule, as we shall see. Later, another amendment was introduced. According to this amendment, if at least three MKs, making up onethird of their faction, decide to leave it, they will be regarded as "legitimately" splitting off and may form an independent faction or join an existing one. They will also keep their party funding. In case the original faction includes five MKs, two may split away together. If the faction is made up of three MKs, one may split away. Earlier this year, the Netanyahu government rammed through an amendment to this article, known as the "Mofaz Law," whereby in factions with more than 21 MKs, seven MKs may break away as a group with the same benefits of those making up one-third of smaller factions. Meanwhile, Kadima MK Eli Aflalo is reportedly conducting negotiations with Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni about his leaving the party. What do they have to talk about if the law is so clear on the ramifications of his move? According to Navot, if Kadima agrees to Aflalo's departure, his move will be considered consensual - that the faction has split away from him, rather than vice versa. In that case, none of the sanctions appearing in the amendments will apply to him. He will receive his party funding and may run in the next election.