Under the banner of “saving democracy”, Gantz’s “Blue and White” party are seeking to change the rules of the game and stop the ability of half of the Israeli public from having a voice in Israeli politics
This opinion is written by the Coalition of Zionist Organizations: Professors’ Circle for Political and Economic Strength, Cafe Shapira and Israel 2030. (Translated from the Hebrew article on mida.org.il)
The ‘Blue and White’ party, which has the support of the mainstream media, academia, and the legal system, is currently pushing for changes that severely damages Israeli democracy, and it is highly doubtful whether the damage done can be repaired later. The irony, and upsetting aspect of the changes they are pushing for, is that they are marketing their changes as “saving democracy”. However, in reality they are changing the rules of the game, violating the ability of half of the Israeli public to express their opinion on the political field, and destroying the checks and balances that save Israel’s democracy.
‘Blue and White’ was chosen on the basis of their repeated explicit promise NOT to rely on the votes of the Joint Arab List, which was itself forced upon the Knesset by Israel’s Supreme Court High in violation of Israeli law. This radical party, which does not recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, aims to curb the process of Israeliization of Israeli Arabs by exacerbating the tensions between the Arab minority and the Jewish majority, with the aim of tattooing “Zionist colonialism”. If the voters would have known that ‘Blue and White’ would turn to rely on the support of Joint Arab List party, their support would have been completely different. Nearly a third of its voters, nine full seats, oppose this reliance on the votes of an anti-Semitic party seeking to eradicate Zionism.
However, based on their election scam on the one hand, and now on their reliance on the Joint Arab List members, the ‘Blue and White’ party now seeks to utilize a patchwork majority coalition to dramatically change the rules of the game. It’s an attempt to use democracy’s tool against itself. Violation of laws, breaking of conventions and rules, breaking traditions of coalition-opposition relations based on Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan type legislation aimed at hurting the opponent’s ability to run for election, and obvious deception, are the means that Blue & White seeks to use to neutralize the public’s opinion.
These actions are far more than a stinking political exercise. They violate the democratic fabric of the State of Israel, a fabric that rests on fairness and solidarity and not just on dry law. Those in Blue & White today looking to occupy power seek to destroy Israeli democracy under the guise of rescuing it. Here’s how it should work:
Insisting on the replacement of the Speaker of the Knesset
According to Basic Law: The Knesset, following elections, the Speaker of the Knesset can continue to hold office until a new government is sworn in (an amendment passed in 2016 by a majority of 94 Knesset members including Blue & White representatives and Yisreal Beitenyu representatives). Moreover, from the date of the Knesset’s establishment 71 years ago to the present day, an opposition Knesset member has never been appointed chairman. The logic is that the one who establishes the government is the one who has received the trust of most Knesset members and therefore the Knesset Speaker will also be on his behalf. All this means that Blue & White’s call to elect a new Knesset Speaker now is, in fact, a disregard for the law and all the rules of work in the Knesset.
True, Blue and White have a majority of 61 Knesset members and seemingly have the ability to determine otherwise. But remember, Gantz’s 61 advisers recommended him to try to form a government under his leadership. This is not a recommendation to form a “shadow government in the Knesset”. Indeed, ‘Blue and White’ is not trying to form a government with these 61 Knesset members. They are trying to use the 61 anti-Bibi votes (including the anti-semitic Joint Arab list members, including members that Blue & White representatives voted to disqualify) to make devastating moves at a time when the government’s mandate for establishing a government is in the hands of Benny Gantz. This is a hostile takeover of the Knesset institutions and a powerful attempt to disrupt the government’s way of working and to become, by necessity, an opposition in the Knesset, instead of doing the obvious thing and forming a government. In other words, ‘Blue and White’ is unsuccessful in forming a government and instead, it is creating a new executive branch within the Knesset’s residence, instead of the Knesset, and with the backing of the High Court.
Insistence on the composition of committees
The insistence on the appointment of a new Knesset chairman is no accident. The next objective is the composition of the organizing committee that determines the composition of the Knesset committees. Here, too, “Blue and White” are violating the Knesset Law and all the understandings that were in effect throughout the Knesset’s existence. By law, the organizing committee is composed according to the relative size of each party. Each party that has more than four members receives a representative and the division is according to a key on which the parties decide. That is, the size of the party determines the number of its representatives on the committee and not the “bloc” or any coalition majority.
True, when the coalition has the support of more Knesset members, their numbers in the committee are also relatively larger. But for example, in the case of “Blue & White” and the Likud, the Likud has more Knesset members, so it is likely that it will have more members on the committee than “Blue & White”. According to the composition of the parties in the current Knesset, it is evident that, according to each key chosen, there will eventually be an equal amount between the representatives of the Gantz group and representatives of the right-wing camp. But “Blue and White” is not accepting this fact and are insisting that the way the committees (and the regulating committee first) should be redefined are according to new rules that they are creating now for the current Knesset. Why? To unduly take over the balance that exists in the Knesset and make the entire Knesset opposed to the government to torpedo every expression of almost half the Knesset members. Indeed, members of the “Blue and White” party and the left bloc have appointed themselves to the chairmanship of all Knesset committees, according to an internal division on their own behalf. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of the Knesset.
The committees and the Speaker of the Knesset decide the fate of laws, their adoption, and the pace of their promotion. They decide whether to exempt laws from a discount obligation (of 45 days, when it comes to private, non-governmental bills, etc.). The real purpose of “Blue & White” is to pass a series of laws against the right-wing camp’s ability to manifest itself in the Democratic elections and, above all, to completely subordinate the legislative and executive branch to the judiciary.
In line with Erdogan or Iranian laws, they intend to pass a law that a person indicted cannot be given the mandate to form a government. To make that decision they have to change an existing Basic Law that states explicitly that a Prime Minister under indictment can still serve. (That basic law was created in order to prevent the exact situation that Blue & White is doing today, to not allow for a judicial process to be abused to get rid of a Prime Minister.) From now on, Blue & White also intend to change the Knesset election system. Their proposal would be to hold direct elections for the Prime Minister (a procedure that Israel had for a few years but was then canceled due to its unmitigated disaster to the Israeli political system) after they pass the law that would forbid Netanyahu from forming a government. In other words, they are planning on changing the rules mid-game to prevent the right-wing camp from electing whoever it democratically elected, Netanyahu.
All this is infinitely worse politically and in effect reverses the voter’s decision. But beyond that, this process ultimately determines one, significant and destructive one: the executive branch becomes entirely beholden to the Supreme Court and the State Prosecutor. Anytime a prosecutor decides to indict an official in the position of being a Prime Minister, that official immediately would have to retire. In simple terms, we are witnessing the changing of the rules so drastically, that it will be simple to stop potential people be elected Prime Minister from the “wrong camp”, exactly what the existing Basic Law was meant to prevent.
And, remember, they are doing all this without even forming a government because they do not have the “majority” to establish it, as Gantz says. They have an ad-hoc anti-Bibi majority in the Knesset that is not trusted and can not form a government. It is because Gantz and Blue & White can not form a government, that they have created this destructive ad-hoc anti-Bibi majority to generate destructive changes that is doubtful whether they can be fixed in the foreseeable future.
Robbery Taking Advantage of the Corona Crisis
In the end, if all we have described so far is not enough, all these acts that “Blue and White” and its ad-hoc anti-Bibi “coalition” members are doing, they have to do immediately. They have to make these changes right now, without a government, during the horrific coronavirus health crisis. As the current government is working 24/7 to save the State of Israel from the epidemic that is creating a global crisis that we have not known since the mid-20th century, Gantz and his Blue & White party are working on these anti-democratic steps. It is no coincidence, that as Knesset members and right-wing ministers are busy running the state to save Israeli citizen’s lives, that Blue & White representatives take advantage to do their stinking exercise: stealing democracy while the government is busy saving lives.
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