Ahmed Tibi
Ahmed TibiFlash 90

While most Israelis were fast asleep, a late-night drama gripped the Knesset. After midnight, the Special Committee for Dissolution of the Knesset was convened in the plenum for a third and final vote. At issue was an alternative date for new elections; the date automatically assigned by law would have fallen on the Purim holiday. The suggested alternative is March 2nd.

The Yisrael Beitenu Party headed by Avigdor Liberman tacked a rider onto the law, stipulating that foreign workers would not receive holiday overtime salary bonuses for the third election day of the year. MK Ahmed Tibi was enraged, and demanded the addition of another rider to the law: Repealing the Kaminitz Law.

The Kaminitz Law is the term for the amendments to the Planning and Building Law in 2017, which was formulated following extensive administrative work by a staff headed by Deputy Attorney General (Civil), Adv. Erez Kaminitz.

Kaminitz proposed a series of legislative amendments to improve the ability to deal with the phenomenon and enable more effective enforcement of planning and construction laws. The amendments were introduced into the Planning and Building Law under Amendment 116 of the Law, which passed during the 20th Knesset.

The amendments increased the severity of the punishment for construction offenses, granted more authority to inspectors, and provided more effective enforcement tools such as allowing for the issuance of work stoppage and demolition orders that bypass the complex and lengthy criminal procedures that exists to date, and increase the ability of authorities to act swiftly against new delinquency.

The Kaminitz Law is an important cluster of amendments to Israel’s Planning and Building Code. The amendments provide important administrative tools and enforcement powers against illegal construction. Since its enactment, The Kaminitz Law has brought the rate of new illegal construction starts down by 50% nationwide. The Joint Arab List has been fighting to repeal it from day one, claiming that it is “racist,” but Jewish farmers all across the country have complained that the Kaminitz Law harms their interest, as well.

In the wee hours between Wednesday and Thursday, Tibi posed an ultimatum: If the rider repealing the Kaminitz Law is not attached to the law for new elections, he will continue to pile more and more objections and rider clauses on, and run down the clock that is quickly ticking down – and elections would be set for Purim.

Regavim Movement Director General Meir Deutsch understood the danger posed by Tibi’s late-night maneuver. Rather than “clocking out” for the day, he rushed to the Knesset in the middle of the night and explained the impending disaster to Zionist MKs on the Knesset Special Committee.

The MKs, among them Oded Forer, Moshe Gafni, Yaakov Margi, and Ofir Sofer, drafted a modified version of the objection rider that states that if the minister presiding over the Special Committee (in this case, Minister of Justice Amir Ohana) calls for changes to the law dispersing the Knesset, all riders, objections and amendments will be considered by the Knesset Finance Committee or a specially-convened panel of MKs.

This formulation headed off the legal putsch masterminded by the Joint Arab List. “When lacunae in the law are identified, they most certainly must be addressed and corrected,” said Deutsch, “but repealing the Kaminitz Law would cause immeasurable harm. We applaud the MKs who took action, both behind the scenes and on center stage; their firm and principled stand blocked a dangerous maneuver that would have dealt a mortal blow to the Negev and the Galilee.”