Rivlin: Gov't weakness in Knesset sign that end is near

Says strength of gov't tested by private members' bills that fill plenum on Wednesdays.

rivlin 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
rivlin 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Private members' bills are proving to be a minefield for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's weakened coalition, with MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) warning Wednesday that the lack of coalition discipline evidenced in government defeats on the bills could mean the beginning of the end of the government. "The strength of the government isn't really tested with the no-confidence votes held in the plenum on Mondays, but in the private members' bills that fill the plenum on Wednesdays," said Rivlin. "A government is tested by its ability to repel private members' bills, particularly populistic ones, where many of the coalition MKs support the bill but that the government opposes on a budgetary basis, because the law does not fit in with their order of preferences," he explained. The coalition met with just such a pitfall in one of the first votes of the day Wednesday, when the plenum approved in its preliminary reading a bill proposed by Likud faction chairman MK Gideon Sa'ar and MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) that would recognize the expenses involved in creating greater accessibility for people with disabilities. Despite the government's stated opposition to the bill, the legislation passed its preliminary reading by a vote of 39-35, with a fair share of coalition members voting in favor. The bill, which was opposed by the government because of its financial implications, would seek to help cover the added expenses of both planning and construction of disabled-accessible facilities through offering tax credits for the year in which the construction took place. But Wednesday's legislation wasn't the only such bill to pass despite the government's opposition. Two weeks ago, on the eve of Olmert's trip to the United States, a series of five bills, all of which were originally opposed by the government, passed the Knesset plenum. And earlier, Kadima released from party discipline the vote on the proposed Referendum Law. That decision came as it became clear that coalition members were going to break ranks on the proposed law's committee vote.