As the Knesset was about to vote to disband and set a mutually-acceptable date for yet another round of national elections, MK Ahmed Tibi dug in his heels, demanding the inclusion of a rider clause repealing the ‘Kaminetz Law.” Thanks to the vigilance of a small group of MKs, Tibi’s late-night strong-arm ploy was headed off. Regavim: “Repealing the law would have had catastrophic consequences.”
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 3rd.
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 Kaminetz Law.
The Kaminetz 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 Kaminetz Law has brought the rate of new illegal construction starts down by 50% nationwide. The United 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 Kaminetz Law harms their interest, as well.
In the wee hours between Wednesday and Thursday, Tibi posed an ultimatum: If the rider repealing the Kaminetz 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.
Meir Deutsch, Director General of the Regavim Movement, 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, which 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 Arab List. “When lacunae in the law are identified, they most certainly must be addressed and corrected,” said Deutsch, “but repealing the Kaminetz 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.”