The bill, which was set to be voted on by the Ministerial Legislation Committee Monday, raises the electoral threshold to four percent of the general population from two – putting small parties, namely the Arab lists, at a disadvantage – and limiting the number of ministers that can serve in a government to 19 as well as establishing a maximum of four deputy ministers.
The new governance bill that seeks to beef up the government’s staying power by making it less prone to toppling via no confidence votes was introduced Wednesday by Yisrael Beytenu MK David Rotem.
The draft, which was believed to be submitted at the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was met with applause from Rotem’s faction but was promptly criticized by members of the opposition who claimed it gave large parties too much power, while stripping small parties of their voice.
“This bill offers important fixes for the system of government in Israel, and its purpose is to allow the government to govern more effectively,” Rotem, who also heads the Knesset Constitution Committee, said Wednesday after introducing the legislation. The government and the prime minister shouldn’t be subjected to “extortion and endless parliamentary shenanigans,” he added.
The bill’s first clause also creates tougher stipulations for the passage of no confidence motions – which opposition parties utilize often, almost on a weekly basis. If passed, no confidence motions will require at least 61 members of the Knesset to be signatories and the submitters will have to propose an alternative coalition. If it is unable to form a new government, the bill stipulates, the existing government will remain in power.
Opposition head Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) slammed Yisrael Betytenu and its head Avigdor Liberman for the bill and its efforts to impede no confidence motions.
“While he sits on the defendant’s bench awaiting trail, Liberman is busy legislating dictatorial laws, which though they might suit his party, do not sit well with the idea of a Jewish and democratic State,” Yachimovich said. ”Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid are two parties devoid of any democratic traits. They are ruled by one man and contain no democratic mechanisms.”
Liberman is currently facing charges of breach of trust and fraud for allegedly using his influence to aid an associate who tipped him off on a police investigation into his affairs.
Zahava Gal-on, head of the left-wing Meretz party, compared Liberman to Vladimir Putin and his dictatorship over Russia. “Liberman offers a system of government led by a ‘strong leader,’ much like the one in place in the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin. For the sake of governance, the prime minister’s strength will increase at the expense of political parties.
“The prime minister will hold too much power,” she warned.
Eli Yishai, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, also in the opposition, said that such a motion would likely be welcomed in South American countries, alluding to those countries’ reputation of clamping down on their citizens’ democratic rights.