Silvan Shalom 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom has been more active than any other cabinet member on behalf of the national camp over the past year, according to a surprising study conducted by the nationalist grassroots organization Mattot Arim.
Shalom, who was seen as dovish when he was foreign minister from 2003 to 2006, has shifted squarely to the Right, outflanking his closest competitors in the cabinet, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein and Environment Minister Gilad Erdan (both Likud). The MKs who fared best in the study were the Likud’s Yariv Levin, and Michael Ben-Ari and Uri Ariel of the National Union.
“Silvan is a minister who is known to be exceptionally astute about internal politics,” said Mattot Arim spokeswoman Susie Dym, who conducted the study. “He must have looked at who did well in the last Likud primary and drew conclusions about who rewards loyalty downward with loyalty upward.”
Dym compiled all the actions taken by right-wing ministers and MKs from the end of the Knesset’s summer session in July until its winter recess ended last month. She included the number of bills, votes, ministerial queries, and attempts to set the agenda on issues of importance to the national camp.
The information was culled from the local and foreign press, Web sites of the Knesset, parties, and individual MKs, right-wing activist groups, regional councils and communities, Mattot Arim activists, and from the legislators themselves. Preliminary results were then sent to the MKs and ministers for corrections before they were released to the press.
The study found that ministers not only neglected their parliamentary work but also refrained from using their power as ministers to take steps on behalf of right-wing interests. For instance, ministers have the right to raise issues for discussion and votes in the cabinet but rarely do, preferring to give the Prime Minister’s Office the sole power over the cabinet’s agenda.
Dym said the right-wing ministers inactivity has given Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Labor inordinate power to use his ministry to act against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar.
“The lack of action on the part of the ministers has created a complete distortion of the Israeli political system whereby the large majority enjoyed by the national camp in the government is wasted while Barak dances circles around the rest of the ministers,” Dym said.
“Our report shows that so far, the elected officials who are doing the work are the less powerful MKs rather than the more powerful ministers, and this is putting Israel in great danger. The ministers, by being so passive, are effectively insisting that [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu do everything on his own, and that is not right (pun unintended).”
Among the right-wing parties, the National Union was found to take the most action on behalf of the nationalist camp, followed by Habayit Hayehudi, Likud, Shas, Israel Beiteinu and United Torah Judaism.
The female MK determined to be most active on behalf of the Right was the Likud’s Tzipi Hotovely, who at 31, is also the current Knesset’s youngest member. The haredi MK found to act most right-wing was Shas’s Haim Amsalem.
The greatest improvements among MKs from the last time Dym conducted a study a year ago were from Ben-Ari, Habayit Hayehudi MK Zevulun Orlev, and Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin, who recently formed a lobby for the Land of Israel.
The MKs from right-wing parties found to be the least active for the
nationalist camp were Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor (Likud),
Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled (Likud), Tourism Minister Stas
Meseznikov (Israel Beiteinu), Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver
(Israel Beiteinu), Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias
(Shas), Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) and Deputy Health Minister
Ya’acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism).
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman were not rated in the
report both because their senior positions in foreign policy make it
difficult to compare them to their ministerial colleagues, and because,
according to Mattot Arim, both men reneged on campaign promises to
oppose, or at least not support, the notion of a Palestinian state.