Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) told Ynet that the bill creates "a terrible sense of tyranny of the majority, a predatory government that files anti-democratic bills with such arrogance, without in-depth discussion. On the last day of the Knesset session, they're going to change orders and push out the Arab parties. We are on the verge of a slippery slope."
- Knesset passes Governance Bill to MKs' silent protest
- Governance bill sparks fiery Knesset debate
- Ethics Committee suspends Tibi from deputy speaker role
Gal-On added: "There was a bitter and incisive debate with the coalition about the governance bill, which has nothing to do with governance whatsoever. Their aim is to silence the opposition and silence ideological parties. We shouted, spoke and reproached, and at some point we decided that Meretz should express its solidarity with the Arab parties that went silent."
Gal-On, who was sobbing on the plenum's podium, added: "It was a very difficult day. I wanted to express solidarity with the Arab parties which the governance bill asks to throw out of the Knesset. I was emotional, lightly sobbed, lightly chuckled, I didn't know what was happening."
The protest focused mainly on the second part of the governance bill, which raises the election threshold. The opposition claimed it was an attempt to push the Arab parties out of the Knesset. MK Ahmad Tibi said a few words then turned his back to the Knesset. After him, several other Arab MKs took the podium and stood silent.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said that he too will remain silent in solidarity with the Arab parties, and so did his fellow party member MK Uri Maklev. MK Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) said a few words in Arabic, and then was silent. MK Nachman Shai (Labor) said he identifies with those who choose to be silent, however took advantage of his right to speak. His fellow party member MK Merav Michaeli also protested with silence over the plenum's podium.
Tibi told Ynet: "It is a deafening silence against the attempt to silence us. Those who initiated this process are in fact Yisrael Beiteinu against the Arabs, and Yesh Atid against the haredim. This is how the prime minister's saying is being fulfilled: 'We'd be better off without the Arabs and haredim.'"
Conversely, Tibi claimed that in the previous term he proposed uniting the Arab parties – a solution to the election threshold. "We suggested forming a united Arab list in which every party maintains its strength," he said. "But not everyone agrees. Ideas of pluralism and ideological differences should be treated with careful consideration. People cannot be forced by law to unite contrary to fundamental principles."
According to the governance bill, which passed the first reading at the Knesset, the election threshold will be raised from 2% to 4%; the number of ministers will be limited to 19 and 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.
The bill also stipulates that if the coalition does not manage to pass the State budget within three months the Knesset will be dissolved.
Yesh Atid suspends Adi Kol
The voting of the first part of the governance bill, which relates to the number of ministers and reducing ability to submit no-confidence motions, was passed by a 63-46 vote, while two abstained. The second part of the bill was passed by a 64-49 vote, with one abstainer.
Knesset Member Yuli Edelstein abstained from both votes, and was joined by MK Adi Kol from Yesh Atid who abstained from the first vote, and was later reprimanded and suspended from Knesset committees by her party. Apart from Edelstein, Likud MK Reuven Rivlin also voted differently from his party members and voted against the bill.
The referendum bill passed the first reading with 66 voting in favor of the bill and 45 voting against it. According to the proposal that was passed in the first reading to make the Referendum Law into a Basic Law, any agreement to have Israel transfer sovereign lands will require a referendum.
Attila Somfalvi contrbuted to this report.
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