'Shalom's fall election bill is still an option'

Legal opinion: Knesset can be called from recess if 61 votes needed to pass bill earned during session.

silvan shalom 248 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
silvan shalom 248 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Although it may seem like time is running out for MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) to push forward his legislation to dissolve the Knesset before its summer session ends on July 31, an eight-year-old legal opinion may offer the opposition a much-needed extension. Shalom has been waiting for more than a year for the 61 votes necessary to pass the bill's preliminary reading. That opportunity seemed to knock when Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak demanded on May 28 that Kadima switch leaders or risk his party voting in favor of early elections - but following Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's announcement about a Kadima primary on Wednesday afternoon, a general election seems a bit more distant. Shalom is likely to consider pushing the date of his bill's preliminary reading back another week - from June 18 to June 25 - to make sure that he still has a majority. But doing that would bring the preliminary reading within five weeks of the end of the Knesset session, and could render the November date that has been floated recently for an early general election an impossibility. Even then, however, all hope would not be lost for Shalom and his supporters - in July 2000, then-Knesset legal adviser Tzvi Inbar issued an opinion saying that the legislature could be called back into session during a recess to vote on a bill to dissolve the government, if the bill has already passed its preliminary reading by the required 61 votes. Such a scenario - at least as seen through the lens of recent Knesset history - is highly improbable. In both previous instances in which a bill to dissolve the government passed in first reading - in 1999 when Haim Ramon brought an end to Binyamin Netanyahu's administration, and a year later when Shalom returned the favor to Ehud Barak - the Knesset factions gathered after the first reading passed and agreed on a date for an election.