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The Knesset’s winter session begins

What happened: The Knesset returned to work at the start of this week in what is an important session for the government if it intends to last its full term.

  • The Knesset’s winter session began with speeches by Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy and President Isaac Herzog, who called on the MKs to maintain a stately demeanour. Herzog said: “Germane disagreements—yes; legitimacy for bullying—no.”
  • Prime Minister Bennett is said: “This government was sworn in 113 days ago, days that were filled with work. Many of the country’s spheres of activity were covered with a layer of dust of neglect. Two years of inaction, of procrastination and atrophy, beginning with the Iranian nuclear [programme], via the cost of housing and through to the endless traffic jams.”
  • The United Arab List (UAL) faction has posed several conditions in exchange for its support for the budget. It is demanding that a plan be formulated for planning and construction in the Arab sector and to legalise the unrecognised villages in the Negev. The UAL is also demanding that a new nation-state law not be legislated, and to approve immediately the status of approximately 2,000 Palestinian families in the framework of family unification.
  • The UAL is also demanding that the 2017 Kamenitz law be reviewed. The law gave the government increased enforcement powers including on demolition and eviction orders, and substantially increased the use of financial penalties against offenders.
  • Yesterday, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar said a bill setting term limits for the position of Prime Minister would be brought for government approval in this Knesset session. The bill limits a premier from serving for more than eight years in total and would not be applied retroactively – meaning Benjamin Netanyahu will still be able to run again for Prime Minister.
  • During coalition talks in June, the Yamina Party had initially refused to support a version of the bill that prevented a long-time Prime Minister from running for parliament.

Context: So far during the government’s term, the Opposition has boycotted the Knesset committees, restricting the ability of the Knesset to review and pass any new laws.

  • The Likud argue that the coalition has guaranteed itself a large majority in the committees.
  • Likud Faction Chairman Yariv Levin has insisted on a one-MK majority. Coalition Chairwoman Idit Silman agreed to that for most of the committees, but insisted on a two-MK majority in the two committees that are critical for the coalition — the Finance Committee and the Housing Committee.
  • It was reported earlier this week that Prime Minister Bennett intends to postpone the meeting to discuss the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the submarine affair until after the budget is passed. He is under pressure from his party members not to form the commission.
  • Meanwhile, Justice Minister Sa’ar has agreed to form a state commission of inquiry into the affair and said that the preparatory work had been done. He said that Defence Minister Benny Gantz would be the one to decide when to introduce a motion to the cabinet for approval.
  • The government has approved the establishment of a gender equality cabinet which will work on curbing violence against women, forming policy to combat sexual assault, closing wage gaps, and caring for vulnerable women. It will be composed of nine ministers, male and female, and will be led by Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, who proposed the idea.

Looking ahead: After the budget is approved Bennett will try to formulate a political vision that will appeal to centre-right voters without inducing the collapse of his government. This might include expanding settlement building in the Golan Heights.

  • The government must pass the state budget for 2020-1 by 14 November in order to avert new elections. The Finance Committee, which is chaired by Yisrael Beiteinu MK Alex Kushnir convened on Sunday to discuss the budget bill for 2021-2022.

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