The revolutionary legislation received the support of the ministerial committee for legislation yesterday, largely at the behest of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who would like Lieberman to join his government coalition. The Kadima ministers voted in favor, while Labor and Shas voted against. Health Minister Yaakov Ben-Yizri of the Pensioners Party, who objects to the bill, could have been the deciding vote - but he caved in to Olmert's pressure and did not show up. By a 5-4 vote, therefore, it was decided that the government would support the bill when it comes up for a Knesset vote.

This is no guarantee of its passage, however, and in fact, at present, the bill in its current state does not appear to have a chance of being legislated into law.

What the Bill Says

The legislation was proposed by Lieberman and several of his party colleagues. Its purpose, as explained in the bill itself, is "to enact a presidential system with total separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches... The ministers will not be Knesset Members, and the Knesset will thus be able to dedicate its work to legislation and parliamentary review over the government... The Knesset will be able to fire the Prime Minister by a 2/3 Knesset majority (80 MKs), but will not be able to dissolve a sitting government - thus guaranteeing governmental stability for four years."

The proposed legislation also states, however, that the Prime Minister will be able to call new Knesset elections if he sees that he does not enjoy the support of a Knesset majority.

In addition, the legislation would raise the minimum vote threshold for parties to enter the Knesset. Only parties that receive at least 10% of the popular vote will be able to be represented in the Knesset, in order to prevent the current situation in which "small parties have power above and beyond their electoral representation." In the current Knesset, only Kadima, Labor, the Likud, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu surpassed this minimum or came close. The three Arab parties - even taken together as one bloc - as well as the Pensioners, Meretz, National Union-National Religious Party, and United Torah Judaism (Agudat Yisrael-Degel HaTorah) did not receive this minimum.

Some MKs of Yisrael Beiteinu have already indicated that 10% might be a bit high, and that they would be willing to agree to a lower minimum rate.

Lieberman: No Coalition Talks

In a press conference this afternoon, Lieberman said that there are currently no negotiations underway regarding the entry of his party into the government coalition. Such negotiations were one of the main news items of last week.

A survey carried out by pollster Mina Tzemach over the past several days shows that if elections were to be held today, Yisrael Beiteinu would become Israel's second largest party. The poll shows the Likud jumping from 12 Knesset seats to 22, and Yisrael Beiteinu climbing from 11 to 20. It further indicates that Kadima would be halved in size from 29 to 15, and Labor would drop from 19 to 15.

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