Bitan to push 'French Bill' despite coalition rifts
Coalition head Bitan continues promoting 'French Bill' prohibiting investigation against sitting prime minister, threatening to call elections if bill isn't completed despite PM Netanyahu's claimed lack of interest; 'Bill needs consent of all coalition partners, if impasse persists sourpusses may start appearing among Right,' says Bayit Yehudi's MK Mualem.
The coalition's work has been halted for the second consecutive week following a dispute between its members surrounding the "French Bill" which would prohibit criminal investigations against a sitting prime minister, while Likud ministers are blaming member of their own party Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan of fomenting discord that may end up leading to new elections.
In light of the heightened tensions within the coalition, some officials have stepped forward to ease the situation. "It doesn't make sense to call new elections simply because of the 'French Bill.' None of the coalition's members thinks it's really necessary," said MK Shuli Mualem (Bayit Yehudi) in an interview with Ynet.
Roughly two hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday he was no longer interested in the bill, Bitan clarified he intends to continue pursuing it. Bitan is expected to attempt to pass the law as an ordinary law, as opposed to a Basic Law, which means the Likud's coalition partners will be obligated to vote in its favor.
Despite the fact Netanyahu announced he's no longer interested in the bill, no votes were taken on legsislation on Sunday.
"We—as a coalition—found ourselves down an alleyway I don't think anyone intended to enter. When it comes down to it, we have a country to run, and all of the bills have been stuck in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for the second week now, which doesn't make sense. We're in the Knesset to legislate, not for political squabbles," said MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu).
MK Mualem spoke about allegations made by Likud officials, who said Bayit Yehudi members have already been briefing the law was dead and buried. "Things are very clear as far as we're concerned. It's an amendment to a Basic Law and we're of the opinion it therefore requires the consent of all coalition parties, and so we'd like to postpone the bill going to the Ministerial Committee to hold a dialogue," she said.
"Then we were suddenly inundated Saturday night with all kinds of messages saying the Likud doesn't work for Bayit Yehudi and that we only have eight mandates while they have 30. The noise created around this issue over the past few days is bad for the coalition, which has been trucking along just fine for two and a half years. You can hold a discourse quietly, and behind closed doors," Mualem concluded.
MK Azaria entered the conversation again, saying, "The 'French Bill' is a bad law, we know it and most of the other members of the coalition know it. Why drag everyone to new elections for something whose importance no one can actually explain? Even the prime minister himself said it wasn't important."
MK Mualem, meanwhile, was unmoved by the threats made by Bitan and MK David Amsalem, also from Likud. "The threats are neither realistic nor relevant. I don't think dangling the threat of elections is the way to manage a coalition. I suggest they listen to what the prime minister said (Sunday), lower their tones and find a solution all of the coalition's parties can live with, and one that's good for Israel as well," she said.
The current freeze caused a bill to cancel the disengagement in the northern Samaria, put forward by Mualem and Bitan, to be shelved. "I was sorry that's the case. I'll use terminology I heard last week: we shouldn't be surprised if sourpusses start cropping up among supporters of the right. Paralyzing the Knesset's work and privately sponsored or governmental bills is certainly not the solution to a coalition crisis, no matter how big or how small," she said.