After long months of discussions and a week of political conflicts
between the coalition and the opposition, the Knesset passed the Governance Act in a second and third reading Tuesday morning.
The MKs voted aloud one by one as the names of all 120 legislators were called out, approving the amendments to the Election Law and to Basic Law: The Government with 67 in favor, and no one against or abstaining.
The amendment to the Basic Law: The Government is designed to make it difficult to overthrow a government and limits, among other things, the opposition's ability to express non-confidence in the acting cabinet. It also limits the number of ministers in the cabinet to 18 (not including the prime minister) and the number of deputy ministers to 4, while barring the appointment of ministers without portfolios.
The amendment to the Election Law raises the electoral threshold to 3.25% (about four seats). It also cancels the "Mofaz Law" that allowed seven MKs to split from their party even if they do not make up a third of it, as well as cancels the unit of election funding to an MKs who left their faction for another.
"I congratulate the Israeli public who is now getting governments that are more functional and more stable," Finance Minister and Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said at the end of the vote. "Governments that don't have ministers without portfolios, and that have actual governance and the ability to oversee the debates in it, will be more interesting and more important governments."
"What we see here is a display of hypocrisy and whining," Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman said while presenting the bill proposals to the Knesset. "Every time I hear (Isaac Herzog) speak I feel like crying and wiping my tears. He's always crying and whining. The hypocrisy celebrates and cries out to the heavens. All of these people who fear for the Israeli democracy used to talk about the need to raise the electoral threshold because ephemeral factions might enter the Knesset."
Detailing the electoral thresholds in other Western countries, Liberman wondered "are we doing something that is unacceptable in the world?"
Opposition leader and Labor head Isaac Herzog responded to Liberman in an alternative meeting held by the opposition. "Mr. Foreign Minister, you've established most of your career on campaigns of intimidation. You will not look down at the opposition (and scare it)," he said. "The coalition is here today because of a worrisome and shady political plan, and because of an attempt to sic one group against another in order to cover up its failures on every single issue."
MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteninu), who proposed the Governance Act, accused the opposition of "anti-democratic behavior."
"Those who want to make their claims should come here to make them, and we will see whether or not they have a majority. They didn't show up for the vote because they knew they would lose it," Rotem said. "It is only fair that those who want to claim democracy play by the rules of democracy."
The Governance Act's approval was bundled up with the approval of two other controversial laws - the IDF draft bill and the referendum bill - in a coalition agreement
revealed by Ynet on Sunday.
The agreement, a result of the lack of trust between the coalition factions, raised a lot of ire and criticism and led to an opposition boycott of the discussions and votes on the bills. As a part of the opposition's protest, it has been holding alternative discussions at the Knesset's Negev Hall.
"Liberman won the battle today, but the war is far from over," MK Dov Henin (Hadash) said following the passing of the Governance Act. "He managed to blackmail the coalition members' support to sharply raise the electoral threshold, a move that over 90 MKs would have voted against in a free vote."
The vote on haredi draft to IDF service will be presented on Wednesday, at the request of Yesh Atid, while the referendum bill will be voted upon on Wednesday night and Thursday.