Gov’t Expansion Bill Approved for Final Passage

YERUSHALAYIM -
Minister Ofir Akunis (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool)

A special arrangements committee on Wednesday approved the law for the expansion of government for its second and third reading, after it passed on its first reading two days ago – and three days since it was introduced in the Knesset Sunday. If it passes, the law will be the first to be enacted by the 21st Knesset.

The law needs 61 MKs to go into effect, as it is a change to the Basic Law on Government, which prevents governments from including more than 18 ministers. That law has been in effect for nearly two decades, and has never actually been followed. Each government got past the limitation by passing “emergency override” legislation. If the change to the Basic Law passes next week’s vote, Prime Minister will be able to appoint as many ministers as they want without limit. In Monday’s first reading, 65 MKs voted in favor, with 54 opposed.

Those 54 were all in Blue and White, Meretz, Labor, and the Arab parties, and MKs from those parties have decried the bill. “We can already hang a sign outside the hospital in Afula that says that ‘we will not be installing an MRI machine here, because we need the money that would have gone for that to establish eight new ministries,” Blue and White’s Yair Lapid said. His party-mate MK Gabi Ashkenazi said that “we are not going to let this go without a fight,” calling for a mass rally Saturday night against the bill.

Blue and White head Benny Gantz said that the law was “another tool for political corruption. They will use this tool not for the good of the people, but for the good of the politicians and special interests. Anyone who votes for this is guilty of political bribery.” Channel 12 reported that Blue and White plans to filibuster the bill when it comes up for a vote Monday, hoping to extend the debate through Tuesday – the last day Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can present a government.

Science Minister Ofir Akunis said that the measure was “no different than what governments have been doing here for the past 20 years.” Those who were protesting now should have opened their mouths a decade ago, he said, when “there were 30 ministers and 10 deputy ministers in the government of Ariel Sharon, all in the interest of carrying out the disengagement. To serve the left, of course, this is permissible.”