Opposition Balks at Time Limit for Debating Chareidi Draft Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -

Israeli opposition leaders are up in arms over a time limit imposed by the Netanyahu government coalition on debate of three major pieces of legislation, including the chareidi conscription bill, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.

After a tumultuous meeting of the Knesset House Committee, MKs voted to limit the length of debate on the chareidi draft, electoral reform and the referendum on sovereign land concessions to one day each.

The House Committee decided that electoral reform debate will begin at 11 a.m. Monday and voting at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Discussion of the chareidi conscription bill starts right after that, and voting will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Following UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on Wednesday afternoon, the Knesset will debate the referendum bill until 2 a.m.

“Netanyahu is in la-la-land,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) quipped, referring to the prime minister’s visit to Hollywood and Silicon Valley on Wednesday.

“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to play one sector against another,” Herzog charged at a joint opposition press conference. “The government failed in lowering prices and housing costs, fixing the health system and bridging socioeconomic gaps. Maybe that’s why he’s trying to disenfranchise chareidim and Arabs [by increasing the electoral threshold.]

Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) dismissed the opposition’s claims as “bizarre and ridiculous,” asserting that they are receiving twice as much time to debate as originally planned.

Opposition parties had requested three days for debate on each bill; but the coalition invoked a Knesset regulation which says that in “extraordinary circumstances” the House Committee can establish procedures for debates.

Soon after the vote, MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) wrote a letter of complaint to Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon, who decided the decision is “not unusual enough to require intervention.”

“I don’t remember such behavior in the Knesset in the past 15 years,” Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On declared. In mocking reference to a line in Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC on Tuesday, Gal-On said, “What looks like a dictatorship and quacks like a dictatorship is a dictatorship.”

Gal-On demanded that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to intervene, saying, “He is the speaker for all of us; he should be banging on the table.” Edelstein belongs to Yisrael Beiteinu, which is a member of the coalition.

“This is a dictatorship. I wanted to compare it to Ukraine, but then someone told me that even they have democracy, so that won’t work,” MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni (UTJ) said. “I think all the opposition MKs should got to the Kosel, but Gal-On doesn’t like it, so we thought we’d go to the old Knesset building on King George Street.”

Shas leader Arye Deri condemned the decision, saying the coalition is “silencing minorities in the darkest way possible.”