Knesset opens summer session:
On agenda: Nationality, Overrule Clause, draft, conversion

Knesset enters challenging summer session of controversial legislation. Festive atmosphere expected for US embassy transfer in two weeks.

Mordechai Sones,

Knesset plenum
Knesset plenum
Flash 90

After a month-and-a-half recess, Knesset Members return to the plenum opening the summer session, and look forward to many sleepless nights in which controversial laws and difficult political challenges will be dealt with.

No sooner than Knesset Members will reach the plenum will they encounter the Nationality Law being raised this evening for a vote on first reading. This law is designed to anchor the status of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People.

As innocent and obvious as it sounds, the law evokes so many emotions in the coalition and in the opposition, as evidenced by the many stipulations applied to it which will be discussed tonight in the Knesset plenum.

The coalition believes despite the fact the law will pass the current hurdle, it will not reach second and third readings in the current session because of many coalition disagreements surrounding it. The haredim find many paragraphs in it unpalatable, especially in view of the fact that this is a Basic Law, which in itself is a problem for them.

Both the Kulanu and Yisrael Beiteinu factions demand existing wording be changed and are required to submit their verbiage immediately after completion of the current legislation.

Tonight the Knesset will also vote on the Foundations of Justice - Principles of Jewish Law bill by Constitution Committee Chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) and a group of MKs - which is also being vociferously criticized by the government, on a government bill inspired by Justice Minister Shaked authorizing the cabinet to declare war instead of the existing requirement of full government approval, and another bill by MK Dr. Anat Berko (Likud) seeking to prevent candidates convicted of terrorism from running for Knesset elections.

But this is only the first morning in the Knesset plenum. The high hurdles are already waiting around the corner, and the scuffles within the coalition and between the coalition and opposition are expected to shake the fragile coalition stability anyway.

Already Sunday Knesset Members will find the Overrule Clause on the agenda of the Ministerial Legislation Committee in the version of the Jewish Home Party. In other words, Kulanu insists on sticking to the Attorney General's position according to which a law not enjoying a 70 Knesset Member majority will not be promoted.

The coalition believes the Prime Minister will promote a mid-term compromise and compromise with a 65 MK majority, but Jewish Home for the time being still insists on the original version.

The Prime Minister will be forced relate to the Draft Law. In the past month, the Deputy Health Minister and United Torah Judaism Chairman issued a series of statements saying that in the next two months the Draft Law would have to be passed by three readings - and if not, he would recommend dismantling the government.

The ball is in Defense Minister Liberman's hands, who does not issue hawkish statements but at the same time has not yet provided any indication of good will to push this hot potato.

Even the Conversion Law that is supposed to reach a resolution in the current session will cause the Prime Minister no small headache. Sections of Diaspora Jewry are hurt because of the Western Wall Plan freeze. They will find it difficult to accept another controversy around the Conversion Law. The Opposition will have a loud voice over the next few months.

And meanwhile the Prime Minister will continue to encounter police investigators and give his versions of the affairs surrounding him. Commercial media will continue to slam him vigorously. He will receive PR points over the next two weeks by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the US President's quick visit.

The million-shekel question about the coalition's stability will be solved in the next month or two. Achieving this challenging list will distance Netanyahu from elections. The question isn't whether he is capable of doing so. The question is whether he wants to.


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