Chaos in the Knesset
Chaos in the KnessetDanny Shemtov, Knesset spokesman

Thursday morning brought more scenes of chaos in the Knesset plenum, when the “Jewish Judges” bill failed to pass in its third reading, with 51 MKs voting in favor and 51 opposed. When the result was announced, the opposition broke out in cheers and applause.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy of the Yesh Atid party, which is part of the government, voted in error against the bill and then tried to find out if it was possible to change his vote. However, the Knesset’s legal adviser refused to authorize such a move, and Levy was forced to announce: “In light of the fact that it is not permitted to alter my vote, and there was no majority in the third reading, the legislation has not passed on its third reading.”

Since the coalition has a majority on the Knesset’s Legislative Committee, the legislation will likely be submitted to the Knesset again in the near future.

Arutz Sheva has learned that not only Levy, with his erroneous vote, was responsible for the failure of the legislation to pass, but also MK Merav Ben Ari (Yesh Atid), who was absent from the plenum without any arrangement to offset her absence with an MK from the opposition. All other coalition MKs who were not present in the plenum did have their votes offset by opposition MKs. Coalition members are now calling to apply sanctions against Ben Ari, noting that the Yesh Atid party must improve its coalition discipline, “in order to enable the government to function.”

MK Shlomo Karhi (Likud) welcomed the fact that the legislation failed to pass, saying, “Anyone who doesn’t understand why our filibustering is important had an infinite number of examples today to prove the point. We are exhausting this evil government and they are losing more and more [votes] until the government collapses entirely, with G-d’s help. There will be no compromises.”

MK Moshe Gafni, head of the United Torah Judaism party, said: “I keep saying all the time that this government that was established with deceit and with coalition agreements that are entirely divorced from G-d will have no siyatta diShmaya (Divine assistance). So it was in their failure to deal with the coronavirus, and so it is again now with their failed attempt to pass the Jewish Judges bill. They have no Divine assistance, and this is the result.”

The head of the Otzma Yehudit party, MK Itamar Ben Gvir, added, “After another exhausting night with no sleep, I am delighted to announce that the Jewish Judges bill has not passed. Hoping now that the Knesset’s legal adviser will not intervene. This is what can happen when the opposition is united – we triumph.”

The new legislation sought by the government is designed to alter the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee, in order to enable the appointment of Religious Zionist Chief Rabbis as well as dayanim (religious judges) with a more progressive mindset. As things currently stand, there are 11 members of the committee: the two Chief Rabbis of the State; two serving government ministers; two MKs (one from the government and one from the opposition); two dayanim from the Chief Rabbinic Court; two representatives of the Bar Chambers; and one rabbinic court advisor, appointed by the Religious Affairs Minister.

The Jewish Judges bill would add two members to the committee: an additional government representative, and an additional rabbinic court advisor. Furthermore, both of the rabbinic court advisors would have to be female, with one appointed by the Justice Minister and the other by the Religious Affairs Minister. The dayanim, attorneys, and advisors would serve for three-year terms on the committee, with the exception of the currently serving advisor, who will be obligated to leave her position within a year of the new law’s passing.