PM to push key electoral reforms this month

Mofaz bill, mini-Norwegian bill both designed to strengthen coalition.

mofaz 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
mofaz 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
After passing the 2009/10 state budget on Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shifted his attention to obtaining approval of two key electoral reforms by the time the Knesset's summer recess begins on July 29. Netanyahu still hopes to pass the so-called Mofaz bill into law, even though it still must pass three readings. The measure would enable seven MKs to break off from a large faction even if they do not constitute a third of that party's lawmakers. A source close to the prime minister was quoted as saying that he was eager to pass the bill because he believed he could use it to break up Kadima and increase the size of the coalition to 81 MKs, which would make it much more difficult to topple him. Kadima's No. 2, MK Shaul Mofaz, has come out strongly against the bill, which he believes was intended to harm him politically. Mofaz vigorously attacked Netanyahu's political concessions in a speech against the budget on Wednesday. But Netanyahu's associates reportedly believe they can get seven other Kadima MKs to shift to the Likud. The other bill is known as the "mini-Norwegian law" or the "Slomiansky law." The legislation, which has already passed its first reading, would allow one minister from each party in the coalition to resign from the Knesset in favor of the next name on their party's Knesset candidates list and then return to the Knesset if they quit the cabinet. The change is intended to give the coalition five additional active MKs to represent their parties in the Knesset and its committees after the appointment of 40 ministers and deputy ministers gave the coalition a disadvantage in parliamentary work. If the measure becomes law, two Ethiopian immigrants would be able to enter the Knesset: Alali Adamso of the Likud and Mazor Bayana of Shas. Israel Beiteinu's new MK would be Kiryat Gat social worker Viktor Ifrahimov, Labor's would be Harvard-educated consultant Einat Wilf, and former MK Nisan Slomiansky would return to the Knesset with Habayit Hayehudi. The bill has been named after Slomiansky, because Habayit Hayehudi insisted on including it in its coalition agreement due to massive pressure from the former lawmaker. Slomiansky has been lobbying MKs intensively ahead of Tuesday's vote on the bill in the Knesset Law Committee and Habayit Hayehudi has even threatened it would quit the coalition if it were not approved by the summer recess. "If you pushed against disengagement as hard as you pushed for this bill, Israel would still be in Gaza right now," law committee member Ophir Paz-Pines of the Labor rebels told Slomiansky, as he resisted overtures from him in the Knesset cafeteria. Paz-Pines holds the key to passing the legislation, because as a Labor rebel, he can vote in either direction. On one hand he opposes the bill, because he is against the coalition and he opposes personal legislation of any kind in principle. But on the other, he could support the measure to spite Labor ministers who oppose it, in part because they don't want to quit the Knesset to allow Wilf to enter. The Labor rebels, who claim that they helped get Wilf elected to the 14th slot on Labor's list, hope she will give them the fifth MK needed legally to split Labor. Law Committee chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) could also end up torpedoing the legislation, because he prefers passing a full Norwegian law in which all 39 ministers and deputy ministers would quit the Knesset to allow the next candidates on the parties' lists to enter. In that unlikely event, there would be 24 new MKs in the Likud, including party activist Moshe Feiglin, former IDF deputy chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan and former MKs Zalman Shoval, Michael Ratzon, Ehud Yatom, Daniel Ben-Lulu and Pnina Rosenblum. Even comedian Sefi Rivlin would become an lawmaker. Coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) said he hoped to pass the Norwegian law in its more compact version on Wednesday. "The governance laws are in the process of being legislated and the coalition intends to advance them in order to encourage governmental stability," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.a