Knesset approves legislation to boost right-wing in Netanyahu government 

MK Aryeh Deri (Maya Alleruzzo - AP)

Middle East Monitor  /  December 14, 2022

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, approved a preliminary reading of three bills on Tuesday in preparation for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government coalition involving far-right parties. The bills need to pass three more readings in order to become law.

The “Deri Law” will allow the appointment of the head of the Shas party, Aryeh Deri, who has had a conviction for corruption, as a minister in the Netanyahu government. The draft bill calls for amending the Basic Law, which prevents those who have been sentenced to prison from holding a ministerial position; even those sentenced to suspended prison terms are excluded at the moment.

The Knesset also approved a bill allowing the expansion of the powers of the Minister of National Security — who will be far-right extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir in the new government — to tighten his grip over the Israeli police force and affiliated forces.

The third draft bill is the “Smotrich Law”, which allows the leader of the Religious Zionism party to hold the powers of a minister in the Ministry of Defence. The proposed change is for the Basic Law to allow for an additional minister to be appointed alongside the minister of defence, and be responsible for certain areas within the scope of the ministry’s work.

The intention is to facilitate the approval and expansion of Israel’s settlements, and to prevent Palestinian construction in villages in Area C in the occupied West Bank, under the direct supervision of settlers in the Religious Zionism party. All of Israel’s settlers and settlements are illegal under international law.

The three bills will be referred to the organizing committee that regulates the work of the Knesset and parliamentary committees, to determine which committees will discuss them in preparation for putting them to vote for the first reading.

On Tuesday, the Knesset elected Likud member Yariv Levin as its new speaker. Levin’s position is temporary and he is expected to become justice minister in the incoming government. Likud lawmakers have said that he will resign as speaker of the Knesset shortly before the government is sworn in and another speaker will be elected.