So-called ‘Norwegian Law’ will enable Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, no. 9 on Jewish Home’s slate, to enter parliament

Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem (Miriam Alster/Flash90)


The so-called “Norwegian Law” allowing one minister from each coalition party to resign their Knesset seat passed a key Knesset committee on Tuesday and is slated to be voted into law in the parliament’s full plenum Wednesday.

The bill, advanced by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), is intended to enable former Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who placed ninth in the eight-seat party’s slate in the last party primary, to enter the Knesset in the coming term.

The bill passed in the Knesset’s Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Tuesday, but only after it was classified a “temporary order” — meaning it will only apply to the term of the current 20th Knesset.

The stipulation reflects criticism of the measure’s narrow purpose.

Jewish Home said in a statement last week that the law would “empower the coalition factions to strengthen their parliamentary activities in the Knesset, and will bring into the House active and worthy members.”

A broader “Norwegian Law” was proposed in past years to address what many believe to be a short-handed Knesset, with many parliamentary seats effectively inactive because their occupants serve as cabinet ministers. Under current law, serving cabinet ministers are not allowed to serve as Knesset speaker or deputy speaker, to sit on committees or even to propose bills. (Only the prime minister is legally required to be an MK.)

By definition, this legislative manpower problem is felt most acutely by the ruling coalition. The current 61-seat coalition conducts its parliamentary work without the 20 lawmakers serving in cabinet posts and seven more in deputy ministerial positions. The 59-seat opposition suffers no such pressures.

Meanwhile, the 120-member strong Knesset is itself relatively small compared to the parliaments of similarly-sized democracies. Austria, with roughly Israel’s population at 8.6 million, has a parliament with two houses and 245 members. Switzerland’s similarly bicameral federal legislature has 246 members serving its 8.2 million citizens. And Sweden, home to 9.8 million Swedes, has 349 lawmakers in its single house.

But critics have complained that Shaked’s bill, in which only one minister may resign their Knesset post in each coalition faction, does not address that broader problem.

Last week, Zionist Union MK Mickey Rosenthal criticized the bill’s narrower purpose.

A previous proposed version of the bill “forbade double-service in a comprehensive way for all ministers, deputy ministers and the prime minister, in order to allow members of Knesset to focus on their [parliamentary] work and not sprint between five committees.”

But Shaked’s bill, dubbed in the Knesset the “little Norwegian law,” has a “personal goal,” Rosenthal charged: enabling Moalem-Refaeli to enter the Knesset. “When United Torah Judaism complained that it won’t be able to benefit from this ‘bonus’ for Mr. Ya’akov Asher” — the party’s next in line — “they allowed a single deputy minister to resign as well.” UTJ does not hold full ministerial posts, but only deputy positions.

The bill passed easily in the cabinet last week and is expected to pass its final reading in the plenum Wednesday, the last day of the Knesset’s summer session.

As reported by The Times of Israel