Opposition MKs from Meretz, United Torah Judaism, Arab parties and several from the Labor party took the Knesset podium and stood in silent protest after the plenum passed the controversial governance bll's first part on its first reading. Later, the Knesset also passed the bill's second part, including the raising of the election threshold to 4%, by a 64 MKs majority.
During the debate preceding the second vote, MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) stood and wept silently on the podium, and was followed by her fellow Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz who stood silent for a minute and walked down saying the bill is "petty and pathetic."
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The Meretz MKs silent protest was joined by several Arab MKs, including Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List – Ta'al) who took the podium and stood with his back to the plenum to the jeers and cat-calls of several MKs.
In a rare show of solidarity, haredi MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) also stood in silence, later followed by others from his party.
MK Tibi turns back on plenum
MK Gal-On weeps
MK Horovitz silent
The first part of the controversial Governance Bill passed its first reading in the Knesset on Wednesday, with 63 MKs voting for and 46 against.
Putting the bill to the Knesset vote was made possible thanks to a compromise reached on Monday between the prime minister and representatives of the opposition against the background of the State budget approval.
However, the sides agreed that the bill will not stand for second and third readings on the first month of the Knesset's winter session.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) voted against the bill, Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) abstained as well as Yesh Atid's MK Adi Kol, though she voted for the bill's second part.
The bill, presented by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) as an amendment to the Basic Law: The Government, includes a limit of the number of government ministers to 19 and of the deputy ministers to four.
In addition, motions of no-confidence will be held only once a month in the presence of the prime minister or at the demand of 61 MKs, in which case the debate will be held immediately.
If the motion of no-confidence is carried by a 61 MKs majority, and an alternative candidate for prime minister proposed and accepted, the candidate will have 21 days to form a government instead of the current 28.
Should the candidate fail, the deposed government will return to the cabinet.
The bill also determines that if the coalition does not manage to pass the State budget within three months the Knesset will be dissolved. After the general elections, the government will have 55 days to form a State budget, and the Knesset 45 days to pass it.
In a letter sent last month to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman agreed to change the bill and not cancel the no-confidence institution completely, as the original bill proposed.
In addition, in the course of the compromise reached on the eve of the State budget approval, the coalition agreed to form a team to discuss the election threshold clause, in return for the opposition's withdrawal of the many reservations it planned to raise, thus expediting the process.
Furthermore, it was decided that the coalition will form a team to prepare the bill for its second and third readings.
During the Knesset debate, several MKs slammed the bill. "This is a law to bolster racism," MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) accused.
"Two representatives of the monarchic parties who were not directly elected, are proposing the ostracism of ideological factions."
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism ) addressed Lieberman directly: "You should know that upsets happen. We the haredim don't have a problem, we're only growing. This is an election threshold which will leave Yisrael Beiteinu out."
Following the vote, however, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman, MK Avigdor Lieberman, responded to the passing of the bill, saying "this law is the law that saves Israeli democracy and is a step further in the fortifying of Israel as a normal democratic state."
Lieberman added "We will continue to fight to save Israeli democracy from those who repeatedly bring disgrace to the Israeli Knesset and who take no interest in the future of the State of Israel. The people have had enough of a divided Knesset."
In the course of the Knesset debate, MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) cynically inquired whether the law will be implemented only when the Likud-Beiteinu is in the coalition, to which MK Rotem answered: "Don't worry, the law will be good if you're sitting in the opposition, too."
MK Dov Henin (Hadash) accused the bill's initiators of dark motives: "The aim of the bill is the political transfer of the Arab population."
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