Lawmakers’ efforts to dissolve the Knesset and call new elections on Wednesday night fizzled out amid a series of political schemes and machinations that saw MPs go home at night, rush back for a possible vote before midnight and then return home when the vote was postponed to Thursday.
Final readings of the vote to disperse the Knesset and call new elections have been rescheduled for Thursday morning at 9 a.m., extending a process that has become increasingly chaotic since MPs overwhelmingly approved draft legislation last week. .
Political haggling over what legislation to pass before the Knesset is dissolved significantly delayed the process of reading the dissolution bill in the Knesset House Committee over the course of Wednesday.
The coalition Yisrael Beytenu and Labor parties insisted that a law to accelerate and streamline the development of a metro system for central Israel, the so-called meter law – pass before the Knesset is dissolved.
As the infighting dragged on into the night, the opposition, however, demanded in exchange for their support that MK Amichai Chikli’s status as a defector be reversed. Chikli, who was elected to Knesset as outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina member, was expelled by the party for opposing the coalition, preventing him from running in any existing Knesset faction in the upcoming election.
Undoing Chikli’s designation as a “defector” could allow him and his fellow renegade Yamina MPs Idit Silman and Nir Orbach to break away from the party as a separate faction and join opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, while taking election funding with them. assigned with them. It is unclear whether such a move would be legally permissible.
Yisrael Beytenu and the Labor Party attempted to pass the deal, but Justice Minister Gidon Sa’ar’s Yamina and New Hope party strongly opposed it, ultimately leading to the breakdown of efforts to pass the dissolution bill. Wednesday night.
“The fact that Amichai Chikli is willing to sacrifice the metro, which will change the lives of millions of Israelis, to enhance his personal political career is the height of misery and opportunism,” Yamina said in a statement. “Every Israeli in an unnecessary traffic jam will know it’s Amichai Chikli’s fault.”
Sa’ar criticized Likud for the proposal.
“Surrendering to blackmail in the Chikli case is a corrupt deal that goes against the law and the decision of the Knesset committee that voted on the matter,” Sa’ar tweeted. “This ‘laundering’ will also be a stimulus to desert the parties the day after the elections. The opposition has been campaigning for more defectors and sadly the coalition is now giving it a stamp of approval.”
As a result, Yisrael Beytenu said he would not withdraw his objections to the bill and threatened to prolong the dissolution process throughout Thursday.
If the Knesset is not dissolved by midnight on Thursday, longstanding legislation applying Israeli law to Jews living in the West Bank will expire, a situation that could have serious legal consequences.
If the Knesset dissolves before midnight on Thursday, this so-called settler law will be automatically renewed for six months during the term of the interim government.
Meanwhile, the Joint Opposition List of majority-Arab parties tabled a number of objections to the dissolution bill aimed specifically at further delaying the process, in the hope that the Knesset will only be dissolved after the settler law expires. .
Legislation to help allow Israel to join the US Visa Waiver Program appears to be dead, meanwhile, due to the opposition’s refusal to let it go, despite pleas from US Ambassador Thomas Nides.
A modest handover ceremony for Bennett to incoming caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, which was scheduled for Thursday morning, will now be pushed back to Friday, assuming the Knesset is successfully dissolved by midnight on Thursday.
The imminent dissolution of the Knesset was agreed between Lapid and Bennett last week after several rebellions by coalition MPs, undermining the government’s ability to pass laws and govern effectively.
The elections, should they be called, will be the fifth in Israel in three and a half years and will cost an estimated NIS 2.4 billion.
The coalition seeks to hold the elections on November 1, while the opposition prefers October 25, when ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students will still be on vacation and thus more likely to vote.
The dissolution bill will be presented to the full Knesset with a November 1 election date stipulated, along with an objection from the opposition seeking October 25. The matter will be decided by a vote on the Knesset floor when the bill reaches its final readings.