What’s Next for the Israeli Parliament?
Less than two months after Israel’s general election, its newly formed parliament voted to dissolve itself and hold a new election in September
Less than two months after Israel’s general election, on the night between Wednesday and Thursday, its newly formed parliament voted to dissolve itself and hold a new election on September 17, 2019. Of the 120 members of the Israeli parliament, also known as the Knesset, 74 voted for and 45 voted against the dispersion bill proposed by Miki Zohar from the governing Likud party.
The 21st Knesset was sworn in on April 30 and remained in office for just 29 days, setting a new record for the shortest tenure in Israeli history. Until last night, the fourth Knesset held the record with 644 days between 1959 and 1961.
The vote to dissolve the Knesset was concluded just minutes past midnight, the deadline given to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to gain the support of at least 61 members of parliament in order to form a government. By the deadline, Netanyahu managed to get 60 members of the Knesset behind him.
The main dispute revolved around the Haredi Draft bill, which calls for the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) men in the mandatory military enlistment law, and reduces the government’s financial support of Haredi educational institutions that do not meet predetermined conscription quotas. The main proponent of the bill is former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is well-known for his anti-Haredi agenda.
Lieberman conditioned his four-seat party’s support of Netanyahu in having the bill passed exactly as he proposed it last year, without even the slightest amendments requested by Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, each holding eight seats in parliament.
The Haredi Draft bill was also among the main disagreements that caused the previous Knesset to disperse, prior to the April election.
As part of the coalition negotiations, Netanyahu, who is currently facing possible indictment pending a hearing in three separate criminal cases, was also pushing for legislation meant to secure him and other members of parliament automatic legal immunity. Since the parliament has dispersed, voting on the bill will have to wait until after the next election. Netanyahu’s hearing is currently scheduled for two weeks later, in October.
The dispersion of the parliament means that the Knesset is effectively deadlocked and will not be convening or voting on any laws, bills, or propositions. Special gatherings of the parliament may be held during the period leading up to the September election, should the need arise. Currently, the only such occurrence is a vote scheduled for Monday to appoint a new state comptroller, a government watchdog entrusted with supervising and reviewing the policies and operations of the Israeli government.
Seating comptroller Yosef Shapira will be stepping down on July 4 following a seven-year tenure and will be replaced by one of two candidates—accountant Matanyahu Englman, currently the head of Israel’s Council of Higher Education, who was proposed by Netanyahu and his supporters, and Giora Romm, Israel's former military attaché in the U.S. and the current director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel, supported by the opposition.
The Knesset’s temporary Finance Committee and the House Committee will continue to convene.
Until the next government is formed, likely in early November 2019, Israel will continue to be governed by its current government, assembled by Netanyahu after his win in the 2015 election. This means that despite failing to reach the electoral threshold and win sits in the current Knesset, Education Minister Naftali Bennet and his fellow party member Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked will maintain their offices. The government, however, will be effectively devoid of power in the meanwhile, and ministers will not be able to promote new reforms within the next five months.
The cost of holding another election is estimated at nearly NIS 2 billion (approximately $551 million)—of which NIS 475 million (approximately $131.3 million) is a direct government expense and about NIS 1.5 billion (approximately $413 million) is an expense caused by the fact that election day is regarded as a nationwide sabbatical.