New opposition faces significant obstacles

A whopping 24 out of the 35 elected members of Blue and White have never served in the Knesset.

By
April 23, 2019 21:59
4 minute read.
Blue and White

Blue and White party banner showing Moshe Yaalon, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi. (photo credit: BEN BRESKY)

 
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Yair Lapid made it clear last week that the Blue and White Party will lead the opposition in the newly elected 21st Knesset when he declared: “I am telling the Likud and the coalition: ‘We are going to make life miserable for you.’”

Easier said than done.

A whopping 24 out of the 35 elected members of Blue and White have never served in the Knesset. Among the 11 members who have, two have limited or zero parliamentary experience. Moshe Ya’alon has been a minister from the moment he was elected in 2009 and has no legislative experience; and Yair Lapid served as a minister and then functioned as a shadow foreign minister from his first day in the opposition, spending very little time involved in the day-to-day running of the Knesset. (He was even fined for his lack of attendance in the Knesset!)

From personal experience, it takes a minimum of six months to learn how the Knesset works. During that time, the very experienced coalition of the expected 65 MKs – with only 19 newcomers in their group – will plow forward with their agenda in committees and in the plenary before the opposition even knows what hit them.

A few experienced and talented opposition members such as Ofer Shelah from Blue and White, and Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli from Labor, will do what they can on a parliamentary level to present an effective opposition, but the freshmen MKs will be limited to shouting at the coalition during committee hearings and plenary sessions – and screaming alone does not make an effective opposition.

One member of Blue and White told columnist Ben Caspit just how the party plans to “make life miserable” for the coalition: “We have to lead a broad public protest against the phenomenon of corruption in general, and by Netanyahu in particular. We have to take control of the public discourse and the street, to display our presence and set the agenda. We must not give Netanyahu a chance to evade this truth contained in the hundreds of binders of investigation material. This will be our test and this will be our mission.”

We have just concluded a 15-week election campaign during which Blue and White did everything possible to highlight the corruption charges against the prime minister to the people of Israel.


They did so in strongly worded public speeches, powerful videos, and in hundreds of parlor meetings throughout the country. The people of Israel heard their criticism and their feelings about a prime minister facing indictment and possible trial. What can they possibly add to what they have already said that will now sway Israeli citizens? Those who support Blue and White will continue to do so, and those who support Netanyahu and the Likud have already chosen to do so despite the corruption charges.

And to be frank, doing so will only repeat the mistake Blue and White made during the campaign: making this only about Netanyahu and not about concrete issues and solutions. At the moment, they lack the experience desperately needed to effectively use the committees and the legislative process to present an alternative, and not simply “make life miserable” for the coalition.

There is also the challenge of keeping Blue and White together. What will happen when the government brings legislation to a vote that speaks to the hearts and ideologies of the staunchly right-wing members of Blue and White such as Moshe Ya’alon, Yoaz Hendel, and Zvi Hauser? How will Yair Lapid – who has spent the last few years presenting himself as the alternative to Netanyahu – handle sitting on the sidelines while Benny Gantz stands in the spotlight as leader of the opposition, a position that mandates regularly scheduled dialogue with the prime minister, meeting with all visiting foreign dignitaries, and the platform of the Knesset podium immediately following the prime minister at all special Knesset sessions?

How will former IDF chiefs of staff like Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, along with former union chief Avi Nissenkorn – all of whom entered politics with their sights on government ministries – deal with being relegated to just being MKs who have to run around to committees and focus on the simple functionary aspects of Knesset life? Focusing on these challenges will make it even more difficult to be an effective opposition.

So as the new Knesset is sworn in this coming week, and all eyes are currently on Netanyahu and his challenge in putting together and maintaining his coalition – assuming Blue and White sticks to its word and does not join Netanyahu’s government – I believe it is their party that will be challenged, and will have a difficult time fighting for its survival during the 21st Knesset.

The writer served as a member of the 19th Knesset.

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