Coalition working to mobilize majority for Regulation Bill
As ministers hustle to garner support in preparation for preliminary Knesset reading and vote on Wednesday of a bill seeking to prevent the evacuation of Amona and other West Bank settlements, Kulanu MKs expected to be absent from the vote; Haredi parties declare that their vote will be conditional upon meeting separate demands.
In a statement, Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Kulanu party Moshe Kahlon made it clear that he will not support a law that harms the High Court of Justice, which rejected a request submitted by the government to extend the deadline for the evacuation of Amona on Monday. This message was emphasized further by Kulanu members who declared their intention to be absent from the vote.
Bayit Yehudi officials clarified that the party and Naftali Bennett have no intention of backing down on the initiaitive. "The law will pass," said party officials Wednesday morning.
One of the chief sponsors of the legislation, MK Shuli Mualem of Bayit Yehudi, told Ynet that if the law does not pass, the party considers itself free of any coalition obligations. "The law passed a ministerial committee and I think that if we're to disregarding decisions made in a ministerial committee and by coalition partners, then that right extends to everyone, certainly Bayit Yehudi MKs," said Mualem. "It is absolutely clear that for us, the Regulation Bill needs to pass today. As far as we're concerned, the moment the regulation bill doesn't pass, we're free of other coalition obligations, such as the Arrangements Law and the budget."
As part of the discussions on the bill and the required majority for the Knesset bill, Chairman of the Coalition David Bitan, convened a meeting in his office with coalition representatives in order to find a solution that would allow for Kulanu members to attend the vote and support it.
Officials present at the meeting said that within minutes, intense arguments erupted over the request by Kulanu to remove the section related to Amona on the basis that it sets a dangerous precedent against the authority of the High Court by circumventing a previous ruling. Bayit Yehudi reportedly refused all compromises offered.
Shortly after the developments with Kulanu, Haredi parties also entered what is escalating into an all-out political brawl by announcing that their vote cannot be automatically guaranteed unless certain preconditions to meet their own demands are met.
According to the most informed opinions, three possible scenarios could arise from the vote. The first, and least likely, is that Kahlon will appeal the law and bring the discussion to the government, where Netanyahu is in charge of the agenda. Netanyahu himself voted against the bill during Sunday's ministerial committee meeting.
The second scenario is that the coalition will succeed in striking a balance with the opposition while appeasing the Haredi factions and thus securing a majority.
The third scenario is that the section seeking to apply the new legal situation on Amona be removed from the proposal thereby enabling Kahlon to vote in favor of the law without him being required to bypass the High Court.
Either way, it would appear that the efforts to find a solution will continue until the last moment.
On Wednesday, Amona residents called an emergency meeting in which they appealed directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu. "The lives of Amona residents, 42 families, are in your hands. The hand that will evacuate Amona on the first day of Hannukah is yours," said Avichai Boaron, head of the campaign against the evacuation.