Monday night, the Knesset passed the first reading of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s amendment proposal to expand the government, after hours of heated speeches by opposition members speaking against the legislation.
All 61 members of the coalition voted in favor of the legislation, while all 59 members of the opposition were on hand to vote against it.
An arranging committee led by Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin will now debate the amendment proposal.
Following the vote, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein declared, “It is my honor to announce to the Knesset that based on Basic Law: The Government, the prime minister has succeeded in forming a government.”
Netanyahu will now have a week to swear in his fourth government.
One after the other, members of the opposition took the podium starting Monday afternoon and well into the late evening hours to raise their objections to the proposal that would expand the government beyond the 18 ministers and four deputy ministers limitation, and allow for the appointment of ministers without portfolios.
The opposition was attempting to delay the passing of the legislation by exhausting the coalition.
Zionist Union leader and Opposition head Isaac Herzog criticized the Netanyahu government for allocating NIS 20 million a year to each of Shas, United Torah Judaism and Bayit Yehudi’s MKs for unspecified purposes.
“Instead of allocating NIS 3 million for the Trophy defense systems to save lives on APCs, they’re giving NIS 20 million to each Knesset member. Instead of adding half a billion shekel to the healthcare basket, NIS 20 million for each MK. Instead of NIS 9 million to security heads in the Gaza border communities, NIS 20 million for each MK. Instead of more teaching assistants in kindergartens, NIS 20 million for each MK,” Herzog said.
“I hear this, and the public hears this, and they won’t accept it and they’re stunned because NIS 20 million for each MK is just spending money. These are the gifts the MKs received so Netanyahu can survive in the Prime Minister’s Residence and form the weakest government we had here,” Herzog added.
Herozg’s Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni chose to target the fact the vote was taking place before Netanyahu handed out ministries to his Likud party members.
“The prime minister, who has yet to form his next government, is in a situation in which he has to buy the votes of his party members so they will lend their support,” she said.
Despite reports Netanyahu could turn to her party to expand his narrow government, Livni said “there is no situation in which we can join this path led by the prime minister.”
She vowed to instead work to replace the Netanyahu government.
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich chose to take a more moderate tone. “I cannot say for certain that had we formed the government, we would not have done the same as a necessity.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, whose party led the charge against bloated governments in the previous term, recounted the vote to limit the number of ministers and how Netanyahu supported the move.
“He said it was something important to the State of Israel. I took it seriously. The problem is we are sitting here and voting every time and thinking politics is a game, and cynicism controls our lives, and no one is taking this seriously,” Lapid said.
He said the clause that allows the appointment of ministers without portfolios was hidden in the bill proposal.
The minister without portfolio, Lapid said, “has all of the conditions of a minister – the entourage, the car – he just does not have a job. And this is what is being brought back because it is okay to mock the plenum because the Knesset is not a serious business, laws are not serious, and everything is enslaved to political convenience.”
“This is the violation of a contract. This contract is not complicated. It says citizens pay taxes and obey laws, while we work for them. This contract was violated today,” he added.
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