Kafe Knesset for October 23
Welcome back, Knesset: After a three-month summer recess, the Knesset has returned to regular work. As always, the afternoon plenum meeting will be full of pomp and circumstance, with speeches by Netanyahu, President Rivlin, and opposition leader Herzog. The situation today, though, is probably best represented by the Israeli idiom “full gas in neutral” – an exercise in futility. There’s a long list of influential and controversial bills on the agenda, dealing with everything from stopping the Supreme Court from canceling bills, banning investigations of a sitting prime minister, returning to evacuated settlements in northern Samaria, and more, but they were all frozen yesterday over coalition infighting. Even planned votes on the Jewish nation-state bill were stopped, because the Haredim are reconsidering their support for it. All in all, today is a lot of talk, and not much action.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s investigations are looming over the whole political scene. In the legal sphere, Netanyahu is expected to be summoned for another probe any day now, but the police is reportedly complaining that they are having a hard time coordinating the probe. The coalition is in knots over a Likud bill which seeks to prohibit police investigations of felonies committed by a sitting prime minister. Bibi has been keeping an evident distance from the bill, but two of his best Likud loyalists are aggressively pushing it instead – David Amsalem, the bill’s sponsor, and coalition chairman David Bitan. The bill, which will not help Netanyahu with his ongoing investigations but could prevent future cases from being opened, was supposed to be brought to a vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation yesterday, but the committee’s chairwoman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Bayit Yehudi, refused to hold the vote, and Kulanu leader Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon also wasn’t very enthusiastic. Both parties are not totally ruling out the legislation, but are demanding to add term limits on the prime minister’s tenure as part of the bill. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman does support the bill.
This morning, the top legal brass came out against the bill: Army Radio reported that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit opposes the bill, stating it is against the country’s basic laws, “does not balance the interests between equality and rule of law and constitutes a severe blow to the rule of law.” Meanwhile, State Attorney Shai Nitzan published an article in an online Bible commentary project , in which he says that granting immunity to an incumbent PM harms the honor and status of the state. Both Bitan and Amsalem slammed the opposition to the bill. Amsalem said: “Just as I don’t tell Shai Nitzan my opinion of the investigation that he is running, he shouldn’t tell me his opinion of the laws I am legislating. That’s not his job. This is not the way things should be done.”
Revolving door: This Knesset beat a record of the most Knesset Members resigning. There are different ways to count how many, but it seems like every week there’s another one. The reasons vary and include sexual harassment allegations, an appointment as UN ambassador, a prison sentence for aiding terrorists, and a rotation agreement. The latest is Ibrahim Hijazi of the Joint List. If you haven’t heard of him, it’s because even though he was an MK for a month, he didn’t actually do a day’s work in the Knesset, because it was in recess the whole time. All of this turnaround is not doing any good for the Knesset’s image.