Coalition readies ‘Norwegian law,’ nixes increased payouts to self-employed

The Knesset’s Arrangements Committee on Tuesday approved readying the so-called Norwegian Law to be brought for a Knesset vote on Wednesday, while the coalition was accused of breaking its promise to advance an opposition-pushed bill in parallel.

The Norwegian Law allows any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to resign temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s list to enter parliament in his or her stead.

A motion to hold the vote earlier than scheduled passed 9-5, while the opposition alleged that the coalition reneged on a deal according to which another law would also be promoted. The Ynet news site reported that in order to speed along the process, the coalition had reached an agreement with the opposition Monday to allow the latter to also expedite a piece of legislation.

The opposition chose to advance a law that would increase unemployment benefits for small-business workers, making them equal to the payouts to salaried employees.

Self-employed, small business owners and activists participate in a rally calling for financial support from the Israeli government in Tel Aviv, May 2, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Many self-employed workers have been hit hard by the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and have been protesting for higher compensation from the government.

But when the opposition members arrived at the Arrangements Committee meeting Tuesday morning, they saw their piece of legislation had been left off the docket, the report said.

Asked to explain, coalition representatives told them: “We didn’t know this was such a hot potato.”

Opposition lawmakers lashed out at the government over the matter.

“A bunch of disconnected, arrogant people,” opposition leader Yair Lapid called them. “They don’t know and don’t care about the real lives of real people.”

“What is being done here is completely crazy,” said Joint List’s Ofer Cassif. “This legislation is degrading and a spit in the face of the public in general and the self-employed in particular.”

The Norwegian Law is included in the coalition deal signed last month between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White.

It is meant to allow members lower down on the parties’ slates, who didn’t make it into parliament in the March 2 elections, to become lawmakers.

Blue and White originally sought to pass a “skipping Norwegian Law,” which would have allowed members to enter the Knesset not according to their original place on the slate. It was aimed at sidestepping the need to let members of the Yesh Atid-Telem faction enter the Knesset. Yesh Atid-Telem ran together with Blue and White, but broke away after Gantz decided to join a unity government with Netanyahu.

The High Court, however, said that the skipping version posed “significant legal difficulties,” indicating that it would strike it down if it wasn’t modified.

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