The Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs rejected a bill Sunday that would have made a Knesset vote necessary before putting into force an extension on the West Bank construction moratorium, beyond its expiration date of September 26.
The bill was drafted by Knesset Member Carmel Shama (Likud) and Uri Ariel (National Union). It was turned down by a majority vote recruited by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to sidestep a potentially sticky situation just before he leaves for a visit to Washington.
Netanyahu and his associates put pressure on the Cabinet ministers on Sunday, a move that ultimately paid off. Beyond opposition faced within Likud, Shas also voiced its support for the bill.
Among those opposed to the bill was Minister Benny Begin. Voting together him were Gideon Saar, Yaakov Neeman, Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor, Yossi Peled, Shalom Simhon, and Isaac Herzog. Some of them said that now is not the time for such a law, while others said that the issue is not a legislative matter at all.
Begin told Ynet he had voted against the bill because he thought it "improper". He said he believed construction should resume after September 26, but that he viewed the bill as irrelevant to this.
"The Knesset can always express its opinion by dismissing the government, if it believes the latter is not doing its job, so I believe a bill such as the one Shama proposed goes too far," he said.
"This bill does not suit a democracy such as ours," he added. "Nothing needs to be done. No decisions need to be made. The general's order will be lifted and we will begin building."
Begin also rejected claims that he had opposed the bill in support of Netanyahu, in light of his upcoming meeting with US President Barack Obama. "It is the principle," he said. "I think there is an excess of legislation attempts and I believe in minimizing unnecessary legislation."
On the other hand, those supporting the bill were ministers Yuli Edelstein and Gilad Erdan from Likud, Yakov Margi and Meshulam Nahari from Shas, and Daniel Hershkowitz from Habayit Hayehudi. They did not heed Netanyahu's request to oppose the bill.
Hershkowitz said to Ynet, "Even thought the bill fell, the prime minister must stand strong against American pressure and not agree to a continuation of the freeze. I believe this is how it will be."
A senior Shas members told Ynet before the cabinet meeting, "We committed to stopping the freeze, and this is what we will do."
The Prime Minister's Office held intensive talks with other coalition factions, especially Yisrael Beiteinu.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov insisted earlier, "We are a rightist-nationalist government. Labor joined because they are used to sitting in the coalition, and they will stay because they have no where to go. We must respect the US, which agreed to instate a limitation of 10 months, but we must stop the freeze."
Roni Sofer contributed to this article