The Special Committee assigned to discuss the extension of the number of Cabinet ministers, i.e. to amend a Basic Law, headed by MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), approved a bill allowing for 20 ministers overnight Monday/Tuesday for second and third readings.
During the 19th Knesset, an amendment was made to a Basic Law regarding ministerial positions which, among other things, limited the number of ministers to 18, abolished the institution of "minister without portfolio," and limited the number of deputy ministers to four.
According to the bill approved by the committee, the Minister without Portfolio position will be reinstated, and the ban on expanding the Cabinet will be temporarily postponed until the 21st Knesset and onwards.
The hearing, which began at 1:00 am and ended at 6:30 am, was heated at times, with MKs bursting into shouting matches and even laughter throughout the discussions.
Much of the Opposition had strong reservations over the vote.
"This is trampling on the rights of Knesset regulations," MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) said. "That's some nerve to think that 'if I will not have enough ministers without portfolio, I cannot run the government.'"
MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) claimed that "the debate is not whether I am for or against 18 ministers, the discussion is about the contempt of the Knesset."
MK Osama Saadi (Joint List) said that "we have reached a low point."
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) added that a "provisional government can not appoint officials, changing the Basic Law."
"The fact that about half of the coalition members will serve in the government, (30 ministers and deputy minister) will hurt the Knesset's work" at large, MK Mickey Rosenthal (Labor) claimed.
Meretz MK Haim Yalin said, "The more the Likud rebels, the larger the government will grow."
MKs Yoel Hasson (Labor – Hatnua), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), and Michal Biran (Labor) were also at the hearing. Biran's presence caused a storm after she refused to leave, even after security came to escort her out.
Ilatov then asked why the government could not 'settle' for 18 ministers, only to be sharply responded to by Elkin.
"During the coalition talks, Likud said it could get by with 18 ministers," Elkin snapped. "And we had two ministerial positions demanded by a party of six MKs." The reference was obviously to Ilatov's party, which bowed out of the coalition talks at the last second to a media storm.
"That party also demanded and received in the past five ministers with 11 MKs. The rule of 18 ministers is good and nice, until it touches a particular party."
Ilatov denied Yisrael Beytenu's role was as represented.
The second part of the debate that began at 3:30 am, whereby members of the Knesset submitted reservations to the bill.
Some bordered on ridiculous.
Michaeli said that "many of the reservations are by way of protest.The Prime Minister and the coalition are making a mockery of the Knesset." For example, Michaeli suggested that instead of the word 'minister,' the bill would discuss a "henchman of the Prime Minister."
Michaeli also sarcastically proposed to add a clause stating, "and there may be a minister without portfolio, who will also receive a vehicle without a driver and without a salary slip," referencing the special benefits given to ministers over MKs.
Levy suggested adding "The purpose of this Act is to transfer funds, jobs and roles in the mobilization of social budgets and the looting of taxpayers, in order to consolidate the needs of the Israeli prime minister and maintaining his Balfour Street address."
Ultimately, the bill was passed by a close vote, with six MKs for and five against.