Opposition praises Rivlin as peacemaker

Decision follows speaker's move to block two of three "survivability bills" at heart of Knesset crisis.

Rivlin 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
Rivlin 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was lauded by the opposition on Monday for paving the way to an end to the almost week-long opposition "strike," but within his own party, the veteran Likud lawmaker was pounded by criticism for caving in to the opposition's demands. Rivlin lived up to his word and only brought to the Knesset floor for a vote one - the least controversial - of the series of bills termed by the coalition as the "Governance Laws." Only the so-called Norwegian Law was passed, in its first reading, on the house floor Monday, while the others were delayed to allow the coalition and opposition more time to hammer out their differences. National Infrastructures Minister Yisrael Katz blasted Rivlin for his actions during the Likud faction meeting, accusing the senior legislator of acting more in the opposition's interest than that of his own party. And while both the Prime Minister's Office and Rivlin's staff tried to put out a message of business as usual, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu canceled a meeting that had been scheduled with Rivlin in the speaker's office on Monday. Netanyahu's office said he needed to rest in advance of his European trip this week. "The Knesset speaker was right not to raise the bills we opposed today," opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni (Kadima) said. "We are fighting for democracy in Israel and Israel's image. Dalia Itzik united all the parties in the opposition together. Don't underestimate the impact of what we accomplished. "We proved this government doesn't care about democratic values. We saw this from the beginning of this Knesset with the passing of the biannual budget bill [in its first reading] in one day. This government cares only about its own survival. "The bills they are trying to pass are part of the old-style politics we are trying to fight. The opposition proved we can stop unthinkable acts and protect the image of the Knesset. We are not fighting for the sake of fighting. We are fighting as a last resort. We had to take democratic steps," Livni said. "In light of the fact that the '[coalition] survival laws' will not be brought up for a vote in this Knesset session, the opposition factions decided to freeze their protest stepsf or the time being," the opposition leaders said in a statement released after their Monday afternoon meeting. "The opposition sees the current outcome as a significant achievement and it is important in preventing any harm to democracy and maintaining the status of the opposition in the Knesset." The opposition said that should any of the other controversial bills be brought to the Knesset floor, it reserved the right to reopen the protest. Netanyahu hinted during Monday's Likud faction meeting that day might not be as far away as some might think. "We are not yet the biggest faction in the Knesset," the prime minister said, in what lawmakers interpreted as a hint that the "Mofaz Bill" would eventually be approved, allowing Kadima MK Shaul Mofaz to split from his faction if he gained an additional six MK supporters. Mofaz, at the center of the most controversial of the governance laws, was conspicuously absent from the Kadima faction meeting, but party officials explained that he was giving a speech in the North. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.