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New Israeli Government; Election Law Changed

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  • Ami Isseroff
    New Israeli Government; Election Law Changed [08.03.01] Israel s Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon spoke before a crowded Knesset session in Jerusalem
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 8, 2001
      New Israeli Government; Election Law Changed
      [08.03.01] Israel's Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon spoke before a crowded
      Knesset session in Jerusalem yesterday and presented the ministers of his new
      national-unity Government, the largest in Israel's history. A special table was built
      to accomodate the new government.
      Sharon praised outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak, saying that
      while the two differed in diplomacy, they shared a common desire to create a
      better future for the country. Sharon also praised the Labor party for
      joining his Government, singling out Shimon Peres, the newly appointed
      Minister of Foreign Affairs, for demonstrating "maturity and national
        "Over the last few years, we have been involved with internal
      and superfluous disputes," Sharon said, "This is the moment to change
      direction." He added that he intended to continue efforts to bring more
      Knesset factions into the Government.
        The new Government, consisting of 26 Ministers and 10 Deputy Ministers,
      received the support of 78 MKs from diverse parties including the Likud, Labor,
      Shas, "One People (Amir Peretz)," "Israel is our Home," 
      New Immigrant parties, center party supporters, United Torah Judaism
      and some one-man  factions. It the largest government in Israel's history. Notably
      absent from the coalition was the right-wing National Religious Party.
      Opposition MK. Yossi Sarid blasted Sharon for enlarging his government
      at the expense of taxpayers. Sarid cited the critique Sharon delivered 
      when Ehud Barak present his enlarged, though smaller, government a year
      and a half ago. Sharon, seated next to Barak, smiled unconcernedly.
      From the labor party, Shimon Peres will be Foreign Minister and Benjamin
      Ben Eliezer will be Minister of Defence. Labor also holds six lesser portfoliors.
      Fiscal conservative Sylvan Shalom will be Minister of the treasury. Liberal hopes
      were dashed by the appointment of hawkish right-wing Likud member Limor
      Livnat as Minister of Education, instead of Meir Shitrit as had been rumored
      earlier. As Minister of Communications under PM Bibi Nethanyahu, Livnat
      worked tirelessly to reshape the media, which she claimed were too left-wing. She
      has vowed to reintroduce "Jewish Values" into the education system. Usually these
      are code words for chauvinism and religious coercion.
      Earlier, the Knesset voted to repeal the direct election law for prime
      minister by a vote of 72-32. Intended to strengthen the post of Prime Minister
      and stabilize the government, the law had instead given more power to small parties
      and destabilized the government, leading to a bipartisan initiative for its repeal.
      Newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres said that "the most
      important thing today is to annul the direct election law, which has disrupted
      the voting system in Israel." The new law returns to the previous system, in which the
      President asks the head of the party he deems most likely to succeed in forming a
      coalition, usually - but not necessarily - the largest party - to form a government.
      Consequently, in the next elections, it is expected that the right-wing Likud
      party will grow in strength at the expense of the ultra-orthodox Shas party,
      the anti-religious "Change" ("Shinui") party of cable TV magnate Tommy Lapid
      and the two Russian immigrant parties. Likud will probably be the largest
      party with approximately 40 knesset members. This  consideration will probably
      discourage Labor from leaving the government and percipitating early elections.
      An  innovation of the new law is that a no-confidence motion cannot be brought to
      a vote unless 61 MKs have signed a petition recommending an alternate candidate
      for Prime Minister. This will discourage the endless series of no-confidence motions that
      characterized the Knesset in the past.
      The Knesset also voted to defer the "Tal" law, concerning military draft of Yeshiva
      students for another two years and maintain the status quo, though government
      legal advisors warned that the vote would be struck down by the Israeli Supreme Court.
        The draft deferral law, approved in December, is based on the
      recommendations of the Tal Committee and stipulates that while yeshiva
      students should be allowed to receive deferrals, there should be a special
      framework for military and civil service. The Tal legislation would also
      enable yeshiva students to obtain permanent army exemptions at age 24, after
      which they would be able to work legally.
      Currently, Yeshiva students can be exempt indefinitely from the draft but cannot work.
      Instead, they and their large families are subsidized heavily from  social security payments.
      Israelis pay approximately 15% of their salaries into social security, but retirees get
      benefits that do not support a subsistence level standard of living.
      The two year deferral of the Tal law came at the insistence of the head of the Lithuanian
      sect of ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jews, Rabbi El-Yashiv.
      The Knesset also approved  a preliminary reading of the 2001 budget, passing the NIS 240 billion proposal (approximately $60 billion) by a 54-32 margin. The new Government is
      required by law to pass a final version of the budget by the end of the month. When the
      budget was originally presented, then-opposition Likud members hastened to point out
      that it did not take into account needed funding of social programs. The same budget was
      approved yesterday without opposition.
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