Proposal to add government ministers narrowly passes Knesset first reading

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A proposal to expand the number of government members from the current 18 passed a first reading in Israel’s Knesset after a five-hour filibuster.

The proposal passed late Monday night by a vote of 61-59, with all 61 members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition voting in favor, and all members of the opposition voting against.

The proposal, an amendment to the Basic Law, must pass a second and third reading, likely on Wednesday night, in order to go into effect. It will overturn a law passed during the last Knesset term limiting the number of Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly plans to appoint 20 ministers and four deputy ministers, and possibly others, in the new government in order to satisfy his coalition partners and his own Likud party. If there are not enough minister posts to go around, coalition partners have threatened to pull out, which would require Israel’s president to appoint another party head to form a government.

The opposition led by Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog said it would submit “thousands” of objections to the proposal on Tuesday,  A committee to advance the proposal to the second and third readings, made up of six coalition members and five opposition members, also will meet Tuesday.

The new government could be sworn in as early as Thursday.


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