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First law of new Knesset passes, making it harder for lawmakers to form a new faction without consequence

Legislative blitz underway even before government sworn in

Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu seen during a plenum session at the Knesset assembly hall, Jerusalem, Dec. 19, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The new Knesset passed its first law – one that will make it harder for Knesset members to quit their party and shift alliances during a legislative session. 

The law is specifically aimed at Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, where the chances of some of the 32 Knesset members being disgruntled is higher. With a large party – and very few plum cabinet positions – Likud members could use their numbers to threaten the majority coalition by peeling off and forming their own faction. 

However, under the new law, a full one-third of the party would have to leave together in order to avoid sanctions. That’s 11 Knesset members from Likud. 

It was Likud itself that pushed the bill. Previously, four Knesset members was the threshold – a lower number pushed by the outgoing coalition in order to woo Likud members. That made it “easier for Knesset members from large factions to split from their faction, which could undermine factional cohesion,” Likud argued.

While the legislation will work to ensure Likud’s stability, it also means that the Knesset’s largest party can no longer pick off members of other parties as it attempted to do – sometimes successfully – in the previous government. This contributed to the toppling of former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government this summer when Idit Silman and Amichai Chikli defected from the Yamina party, destabilizing the coalition. They are both now in the Likud party. 

 The anticipated coalition is trying to jam through several new laws in the coming days, in an effort to placate the various parties’ demands so they will agree to join the government. With Likud, Religious Zionism, Jewish Power, Noam, Shas and United Torah Judaism, Netanyahu would obtain a 64-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset. 

Other pieces of legislation that coalition members want as a prerequisite for joining the government include: the “Deri Law” to allow Shas chairman Aryeh Deri to serve as a minister despite convictions on tax fraid; the “Smotrich Law” to allow Religious Zionism chairman Bezalel Smotrich to serve as a minister within the Defense Ministry and be responsible for civil matters in the West Bank; and the “Ben-Gvir Law,” which would give Jewish Power chairman Itamar Ben Gvir increased control over the Israel Police and police policy as Public Security minister.

Over the past few weeks, Netanyahu has been in negotiations with these parties who are jockeying for specific positions in the next government. His deadline to form a government is Wednesday night, but could be extended another four days.

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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