David Simon asks: JAMES, tell us something we don’t know about what is going on in the Knesset, because the government has only one seat majority and even that is wavering. So is the government winning any votes?
Hello David: On Tuesday night, the opposition once again made it very difficult for the government to pass legislation that will allow a committee of religious judges (Dayanim) to decide on matters of kashrut and conversion. Opposition parties used the “filibuster” tactic to delay the move. But at 3am and after 35 long hours, the government won the votes needed to turn the passage into law.
Also on Monday, the bill for the Prime Minister, rotation agreement between Bennett and Lapid passed into law. This was a major priority because without it, the government would struggle to function. There are still plenty of loopholes in the deal, but a lot is based on trust.
However, most of the Knesset committees (including education, interior, health, state controller, labour & social welfare and others) have still not be formed, after almost seven weeks of a new government.
The opposition have accused the coalition of “steamrolling” them in the allocation of committee chairmanship’s. For this reason, opposition parties have refused to allow two committees that they control, to hold any activities, until the power struggle is sorted. In response the coalition parties are not activating the other committees.
Isaac Reich asks: JAMES, I have made a bet with my wife on how many women are in the Knesset today and a second bet on whether this is a Knesset record. Your answer is desperately required for Shalom Bayit.
Now hang on Isaac: Just because I was a qualified hypnotherapist in the past, you can’t allow a peaceful marriage to rest upon my answer. Besides, you never wrote, who said what or how much the bet is for. If a nice meal is involved, don’t forget where you can reach me.
The reason why the answer is not so easy to discover is because of the “Norwegian” law which is being acted upon more so now, then at any time in the past. The Norwegian law allows Members of Knesset to resign in favour of a cabinet post and then the next person on the party list would automatically become an MK.
This frees up Ministers from the usual MK daily work routine of meetings, committee voting, discussing new legislation and being in the plenum for crucial votes. If a government MK misses a Knesset vote because he or she is at his or her Ministry on important business, the government could possibly fall.
There are currently 34 women in the Knesset. When Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) resigns to become Jewish Agency chairman, he will be replaced by a woman and that will tie with the last Knesset record of 35. There are still 2 men in Yamina set to quit via the Norwegian law and will also be replaced with women.
Steve Miller asks: JAMES, Naftali Bennett boasted about being more right-wing than Netanyahu, but now that he is Prime Minister, he has had to backtrack on some recent statements. What is your take?
Hello Steve: It is so easy to criticise, condemn and complain when in the opposition. But when you are in government, you are made aware of the “whole picture” and you have to act accordingly and diplomatically. Some may say, being Prime Minister separates the men from the boys.
You are referring to the government now “officially” opposed to annexing parts of the main Jewish communities in the West Bank, after voting against the annexation bill of Miki Zohar (Likud) in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
Bennett also backpedalled after he suggested that Jews could pray on the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av. Officials in his office said that he meant to say, “Jews have freedom of visitation rights, not worship.”
Prime Minister Bennett’s comments on Kan Radio were clear. “Both Jews and Muslims have freedom of worship on Temple Mount”. But as expected, this was condemned in many circles in Israel and across the Middle East, as it suggested a change in the “status quo”.
So we see the words of an Israeli Prime Minister can potentially be extremely explosive and Netanyahu could not always do what he wanted to do. Bennett is just finding out that when you sit at the “Top Seat”, it is not as easy as it looks.
There is no doubt that Bennett would support Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount and Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, as well as a strong arm against Hamas in Gaza. But Lapid is the senior man in the government and no doubt reprimanded the Prime Minister for his words.
However several days later, Bennett’s comments on his social media feeds in both English and Hebrew, remained unchanged.