The Knesset plenum is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on proposals to establish two parliamentary committees of inquiry against Left-wing organizations. Yisrael Beitenu announced on Saturday that it would submit a proposal by MK Fania Kirshenbaum to establish a parliamentary committee to investigate the sources of funding of Israeli organizations “that harm Israeli soldiers.” The plenum will also debate a proposal by Likud MK Danny Danon to investigate organizations that acquire land with the aid of foreign financing.
The vote follows a string of efforts in the Knesset to promote legislation that is seen by more liberal Israelis as an erosion of democratic values: the Nakba law, the boycott law and now the Investigation Committees law. The most influential parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition are his own party, Likud, and the Yisrael Beitenu party, led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The two previous laws were supported by most representatives from both parties, although three Likud MKs opposed the Nakba law. Coalition discipline was applied to the boycott law vote, meaning that MKs were forced to vote with their fellow coalition members to preserve the coalition. Despite this, members of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Independence Party were allowed to absent themselves from the vote.
“We expect coalition discipline; if it is not implemented, we will view this as an attack on Yisrael Beitenu,” party spokesman Tal Nahum said on Saturday night. He dismissed rumors that Yisael Beitenu might take revenge on the Likud party if coalition discipline was not implemented, saying, “Reports of revenge or settling accounts are baseless. These laws are important, but so is the government. As party chairman, [Foreign Minister] Avigdor Lieberman has said again and again that this government will see out its term.”
A Likud party representative said Yisrael Beitenu “knows the facts and there is nothing new here.” He said it had already been decided some months ago that coalition discipline would not be imposed on this issue, and that each party could vote for or against the proposal as it saw fit.
The Likud has held two meetings to discuss how its representatives will vote on these proposals. After the first meeting, it was decided that the Likud party would officially support the law, but ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin would all be free to vote as they chose. A week later, a number of ministers, led by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, complained that it was unfair that only some ministers should be given the freedom to vote freely. Ultimately, it was decided to use a clause in the coalition agreement that allows the prime minister to give voting freedom to his fellow faction members.
On Thursday, Netanyahu announced at a conference in Tel Aviv that he was opposed to the proposals to establish investigative committees, but he would allow MKs the freedom to vote as they chose. Netanyahu’s comments came in response to a press conference held the previous day by Lieberman, in which he said: “It is not possible that the coalition imposed discipline in the case of the boycott law, but gives voting freedom on the subject of the investigative committees.”
Sources in the Likud said they believed the proposals would be voted down by a large majority. A senior coalition member said on Saturday that he did not believe the proposal would bring about the demise of the coalition, but it was clear that there would “be revenge” for Netanyahu’s public opposition to Lieberman.
The establishment of investigative committees was already approved by a Knesset committee in February, but was not brought before the Knesset plenum for approval because the bill's initiators could not recruit enough support for it to pass.