Stormy debates forecast as Knesset convenes for winter session
Speaking before Knesset plenum, Bennett takes aim at HCJ, spelling out determination to stop it from striking down Knesset legislation; Lapid ridicules ‘French Bill’ as ‘Netanyahu Bill,’ pledges to reinstate Conscription law; Gabbay pledges to toppled Netanyahu.
Israeli lawmakers returned to the Knesset on Monday to kick off its winter session, where political parties outlined their primary objectives which, for opposition parties touched primarily on toppling the government, and for coalition parties centered on maintaining the Right’s grasp on power.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) was first to speak to the press at a party faction meeting, where he took aim at the Supreme Court, saying “there are judges in Jerusalem who have forgotten there is also a government in Jerusalem.”
Speaking ahead of the plenum session, Bennett outlined the fundamental goals of his party, saying he was determined “to pass the constitutional plan … that will return the power to govern back to the government. The government will govern, the Knesset will legislate and the judges will judge.”
Bennett, together with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), announced their intention to work in order to complete the constitution in Israel by advancing amendments that would prevent the Supreme Court from intervening on matters of legislation in the Knesset and impose practical limits on judicial censure.
According to Bennett and Shaked, the aim was to reinstate a balance between the three branches of authority in Israel, which would require the appendage of a brand new of the Basic Law on legislation, which they contend is missing from the Israeli constitution and is required to join the Basic Laws on the Knesset, the government and the judiciary.
“The Supreme Court is not supposed to intervene and tell us if it likes or doesn't like a specific law. That is the job of the Knesset,” Bennett said, spelling out his grievances before the journalists.
“The Supreme Court cannot nullify the will of the nation just because it doesn’t like this law or that law. The time has come to determine when the Supreme Court can disqualify a bill against the Knesset’s will and when it has to be approved by the Knesset. This will strengthen the State of Israel and we will work to codify it.”
One of the most hotly contested bills which is expected to spark a raucous debate in the Knesset is the Likud-sponsored bill designed to shield a sitting prime minister from being investigated.
Dubbed “the French Bill,” the legislation draft was spearheaded by MK David Amsalem (Likud) as a means to extricate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a web of corruption investigations at which he is the center.
The controversial bill has come under attack on numerous occasions since Amsalem submitted it for consideration. As recently as Monday, State Prosecutor Shay Nitzan slammed the notion that any senior official should be immune from scrutiny and investigation for alleged wrongdoing, describing it as “a total mistake."
Addressing the bill before the plenum, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid denounced the proposed bill, insisting that it should be renamed from the French Bill to the “Benjamin Netanyahu Bill.”
Lapid sought to emphasize that the main focus of the coalition's talks was not centered on people’s everyday lives, but rather on protecting Netanyahu.
“What is the prime minister advancing and what is his coalition arguing about? The minimum wage? Education? Of course not. The only thing that is interests them is to quickly pass the bill so the prime minister can’t be investigated,” Lapid said.
“There is nothing French about this bill. Let’s call it by its real name” The Benjamin Netanyahu Bill, which is intended to stop his investigations.”
After slighting the prime minister, Lapid set out the aims of his own party which he said affected the lives of regular citizens, beginning with the reinstatement of the Conscription Law.
“We will implement again the Conscription Law,” he promised. I want to see who this government is for: IDF soldiers or political blackmail. We will submit (Menachem) Begin’s version of the Nationality Bill. The real Nationality Bill without an attempt to fan the flames between Israeli citizens.”
Finally, the Yesh Atid leader pledged he would seek to impose a two-term limit on any prime minister. “Anyone who is disappointed with Netanyahu sees how important it is to submit this bill. Four terms is too much. It produces disasters such as the submarine affair which harms the holy of holies and harms the state’s security. There will be no hiding from investigating Netanyahu in this affair.”
Recently appointed leader of the opposition Zionist Union camp Avi Gabbay also reserved the majority of his remarks for targeting Netanyahu.
“We will create an alternative to the current regime,” he told the journalists. “We will focus together and unify and create a practical program for the day after this current regime. We will be everywhere the current regime isn’t.”
The government, he said was “on permanent absence from the State of Israel.”
Determined to pinpoint the flaws in Netanyahu’s government and prove he can lead the opposition to to victory in the next general elections, Gabbay scolded the current government discussions for being almost entirely bereft of matters relating to people’s lives.
“Every bill being proposed now has no bearing on civilians. Their sole goal is to be elected again.”
Speaking at his Yisrael Beytenu party faction, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman concentrated on the last wave of hostilities that erupted between Israel and Syria, insisting that the five rockets fired at it by Syrian artillery cannons early Saturday was not errant fire.
“The fire was carried out by a local cell operated by Hezbollah,” Lieberman said. “Hezbollah did this in isolation of the Assad regime. There was a personal instruction given by Nasrallah to compartmentalize Assad and his regime from carrying out this shooting.