The Knesset .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The other evening I was sitting with my daughter Daphna watching Knesset TV. Daphna came from New Jersey to take care of me while my Filipino aid went home for vacation.
Daphna was born and educated in Jerusalem, and fate took her to US, where she raised quite a family and established herself in a prosperous business. She became a typical American, but her heart is still here, in Israel.
The Knesset heard, one member after another, the Opposition arguments against the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to increase the number of ministers in his as-yet problematic, unannounced Cabinet, from the 18 specified by the law which Netanyahu himself proposed and voted for last year, to an unspecified larger number. One after another all Opposition members, including Israeli Arabs, explained why they would vote against the proposed increase.
Opposition members pointed out the enormous cost of additional ministers and vice-ministers who will add nothing to our national welfare. They pointed out that Netanyahu and his Likud cronies fear each other, and thus force our prime minister to pacify them with additional portfolios. It was pointed out that these moneys would be spent better on welfare, health and our heavily overcrowded hospitals.
Each Opposition speaker was given three minutes to explain his position, and the routine was almost automatic.
The Knesset speaker listened to the addresses, warned when they were too lengthy, but one had the feeling that he had little interest in the proceedings.
That 61 votes will decide against the 59 hung in the air. The Opposition members were allowed to talk about whatever they wanted, but no one would bother answering them; in the end 61 votes will decide against 59.
It was both a race for time to have the law amended quickly and a waste of time, since the coalition refused to listen and followed (loosely) Netanyahu’s instructions. He himself just smiled and seemed to be slightly upset that someone would dare to deprive his boys of their hard-earned award.
This was the reason few coalition members stood up to counter the heavy Opposition accusations. The majority of the coalition members didn’t even try to waste their precious time at the pulpit.
Knesset member Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) closed the one-sided deliberations for the coalition with some historical generalities (other Cabinets were even larger), and suddenly coalition MK left the buffet and entered the hitherto half-empty chamber in anticipation of the vote.
The vote was, as expected, 61-59 and a little crowd around Netanyahu congratulated him on his victory. The controversial bill had passed the first hurdle.
It will pass and become law if the MKs’ voting patterns are maintained for the second and third reading.
I looked a Daphna and she looked at me, and we were both ashamed of this saddest show on earth, in which half a nation was poised against the other half, facing a majority of one in a Knesset of 120 members.
Is this what we voted for? Jobs for the boys and to hell with the principles? The Knesset suddenly became in our eyes a mere marketplace for privilege and money. No one denied that the current award is NIS 20 million for every MK, to spend just as he may see fit.
Two witnesses, if not three, were once necessary to sentence a murderer, but now a single MK is sufficient to change the law, rob the Treasury, create fictitious offices with secretaries and personal cars, just to make a few politicians happy. Netanyahu may be happy, but I am certain that the people of Israel are not. We have just witnessed a tremendous betrayal of all the principles of a good government.
I felt ashamed by watching this saddest show on earth with my American daughter.