Coalition Members Sign Mutual Support Pact on Controversial Bills

YERUSHALAYIM -

Opposition Parties Decide to Boycott Voting

Trust is said to be the glue that holds democracies together; but in the Netanyahu government coalition they’re taking no chances.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett are committing their party members in writing to vote the government line on three highly controversial bills this week: electoral reform on Tuesday, chareidi conscription on Wednesday and the Referendum Law for land concessions on Thursday.

The coalition parties are sharply divided on these issues, and the agreement was drawn up to prevent any of them from voting for their own agenda and then reneging on support for their coalition partners’ bills. It was for that reason too that the votes were scheduled in such tight succession, to lessen the chances for switching at the last minute.

The chareidi draft bill has become the cause celebre of Yesh Atid; Jewish Home has gone along so far while voicing objections, and some MKs said last week they wouldn’t vote for the criminal sanctions.

Electoral reform has been a favorite of Yisrael Beitenu, but Yesh Atid, and some MKs of Jewish Home are against it, especially raising the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent, meaning parties with fewer than four seats won’t make it into the Knesset.

Likud-Beiteinu and Jewish Home back turning the existing Referendum Law on concessions of sovereign land into a Basic Law, which would mean that in order to overturn the law an absolute majority of 61 MKs would be needed. That is seen as seriously curtailing the ability of a future government to sign a peace deal that includes cessation of land. For this reason, Movement and Yesh Atid do not support the proposal.

The document not only binds the parties to vote for all three bills, but also imposes rigid discipline on their conduct during Knesset debate. The coalition will only have until 4 p.m. on Monday to file any objections to the bills, and will uniformly vote against any objections, Ynet reported.

In response, the opposition parties announced on Sunday that they will boycott the vote on all three bills. While the government holds discussions of the bills in the Knesset, the opposition parties plan to hold separate, parallel discussions of their own.

They said they would meet on Monday morning in the Knesset to hold a public debate about democracy in Israel.

Opposition leaders pounced on the coalition’s unusual precautions, branding them as undemocratic and meant to choke the voice of the opposition.

Last week, the coalition imposed a one-day limit for debate and voting on each bill, despite an opposition request for three days for each.

Labor party chairman Isaac Herzog called it “an ugly dictatorship in which coalition members are turned like puppets on strings.”

Herzog denounced those who had promised a “new type of politics,” saying they have in fact become “Yisrael Beiteinu 2,” a reference to Lieberman’s party which opposition parties deride as a functional autocracy.

“It is embarrassing that those parties pretending to be the political center are signing hate bills opposed to their ideology,” Herzog said.

Shas chairman Arye Deri pointed to the document as a sign of internal coalition troubles: “This document [says] there is no basic trust between coalition members and should thus be dispersed immediately. It is inconceivable that the citizens of Israel will be run by a group of ministers whose only thing in common is a party and personal interests, and a desire to trample the weak, like a dictatorship.”

Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said that “this coalition has lost control and turned its MKs into robots and hostages. It is forcing MKs to vote in favor of laws they reject.”