Economic Arrangements Bill approved

Longest such bill in history approved after 24 hours of debate.

Yuval Steinitz  88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yuval Steinitz 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite an unexpected glitch when one clause fell to the opposition, the government passed its Economic Arrangements Bill through its final Knesset vote Tuesday after over 24 consecutive hours of speeches and votes. Almost all other work in the legislature came to a halt starting on Monday afternoon when opposition lawmakers began presenting their cases against the bill, in a choreographed filibuster that lasted 18 hours. Following the speeches, the Knesset began voting on the bill clause by clause as a result of the many points of opposition presented by MKs, a process that took almost 12 hours. Some three hours into the vote, Coalition Whip MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) began to show signs of weariness when he told MKs to vote in favor of a point of opposition rather than of clause 36 of the Pension Plans Bill, leading to a situation in which the coalition voted in effect against the clause. Coalition leaders were forced to request a recess, during which time the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee had to re-prepare the entire chapter of the bill for a re-vote. Kadima spokesman Shmulik Dahan mocked the mistake: "Even though we're the ones who spent all night here revealing the cruelty of the budget and its impact on the weaker sectors, the coalition is acting tired and confused." But notwithstanding the mishap, the longest Economic Arrangements Bill in Israel's history sailed through its Knesset approval by a final vote of 63-45, with Labor rebels MKs Eitan Cabel, Ophir Paz-Pines, Yuli Tamir and Amir Peretz all voting against key clauses of the bill. Although she has repeatedly emphasized that she is not in the rebel camp, MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) voted against the entire bill. On the eve of Israel's Independence Day, Yacimovich began her struggle against the bill as a whole by posting an advance copy of it on her Web site and asking her supporters for their input as she examined the more then 500 clauses of the law. A day before the law was finally approved Yacimovich said, "You cannot vote on the arrangements bill in its entirety, as it is monstrous in size, was drafted off the cuff and betrays the public's trust." Yacimovich was one of the leaders in the struggle against the Israel Lands Authority reform, a key chapter of the bill that was ultimately separated from the budget-related vote earlier this week. The vote on the budget and the Economic Arrangements Bill are divided along coalition-opposition lines, so by separating the vote, the opposition provided wiggle room for the many coalition members who also oppose the reform. After the marathon session on Monday and Tuesday, MKs seemed to begin to wind down their rhetoric in advance of the vote on the 2009-2010 budget scheduled for Wednesday. Cabel said the "rebel" MKs would not support the budget, "the assumption being that we will abstain or not be present during the vote." Unlike the Economic Arrangements Law, the entire debate and vote on the budget is set to be completed in slightly more than 12 hours.