Knesset plenum
Knesset plenumIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset passed on Wednesday, in a preliminary reading, the so-called "Governance Bill" proposed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu).

The bill passed with 51 MKs in favor and 43 against. Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) abstained.

Among those who voted against the bill were Likud MKs Reuven Rivlin and Moshe Feiglin, who violated coalition discipline despite the fact that their party supports the bill. The members of Yesh Atid voted in favor of the bill as well, despite having indicated several days ago that they were against some of its clauses.

The bill includes several changes in basic laws that would affect the balance between the government and Knesset, and reduce the frequency of no-confidence votes.

One change that the bill includes is the permanent reduction of governments to 19 ministers, including the Prime Minister, and four deputy ministers.

In addition, no-confidence proposals will only be submitted with the signatures of 61 or more MKs, who will also have to agree upon a candidate to form an alternative government. The candidate will receive 21 days to form an alternative government. If he fails, the presiding government will continue in power.

The bill grants the prime minister power to dissolve the Knesset without the agreement of the President of Israel. Only the Knesset will have the power to block its dissolution.

In addition, the minimum threshold for a party to enter the Knesset will be raised from two to four percent of the popular vote. A party that fails to cross the threshold will not receive any funding from state coffers.

The preliminary reading passed after a stormy Knesset session in which the opposition rallied against the bill, calling it dictatorial and undemocratic.

Rivlin joined the opposition in denouncing the bill, saying, "Begin is turning over in his grave. This is the destruction of democracy. If it passes, we can just close the Knesset and call it only when requested by 61 MKs."

He added, "Raising the threshold is wrong, because we should not prevent voices from being represented in the Knesset."

Opposition leader MK Shelly Yechimovich (Labor) slammed the bill, saying, “It is arrogant, brutal, dictatorial, and hypocritical. Have you no shame? Even a little self respect.”

The bill will now be prepared for its second and third readings. It is expected, however, to undergo some changes before being brought for a vote again.