The Law of the Land

 In a document with guidelines to promote democracy in “liberated” Iraq, the American University Stanford makes the following statement on democracy and the law: “Democracy is a system of rule by laws, not individuals. In a democracy, the rule of law protects the rights of citizens, maintains order, and limits the power of government. All citizens are equal under the law.  No one is above the law, not even a king or an elected president”.

Based on statistics from the Israel Democracy Institute, the Knesset is a hyper-active legislating body with astonishing numbers of bills submitted for approval. In the period 1999 to 2015, 20,145 private member bills were submitted, of which 1,192 in the end became law. Compared to European democracies (where the number of private bills in is the low hundreds) this is surely indicative that our parliament is looking out for the public in an exemplary manner.

Is it?

A bill to prevent one specific person from becoming prime minister, submitted to the Knesset by MK Litzman by demanding specific qualities in a prospective prime minister that Yair Lapid does not have.

A bill to prevent the public from knowing what the police thinks about the validity of the criminal charges against Binyamin Netanyahu.

A bill (which since then has turned into law) whereby Knesset members can expel their colleagues, which is obviously geared towards Arab Knesset members.

A bill to prevent the opening of shops on the Sabbath because a small fringe of the population demands it.

A bill to demand “Cultural Loyalty” from artist and cultural and artistic institutions a prerequisite to obtain funding from the state for artistic and cultural activities which is aimed at silencing anyone who according to Ms. Regev is not loyal to the State of Israel.

Several bills aiming to obtain “transparency” into the funding sources of NGO’s but are in fact all directed at harming and/or silencing so-called left wing organizations that bring into the public eye things that the government would like to keep hidden.

The list could have included numerous laws and laws in the making such as the attempts to prevent entry to foreign citizens that are known or suspected of activities against Israel or the intensive effort to silence “Breaking the Silence” for no other reason than that right-wing politicians do not want to hear about what really goes on in the Occupied West Bank and also do not want Israeli and world citizens to hear about this.

Members of the Knesset are extremely busy writing and submitting bills but these attempts are in most cases not the result of a well thought-out policy direction, are not part of a concerted effort by government and the legislative body to further ideas and ideology but are a mere effort to, on one hand serve very narrow personal goals and on the other hand, catch the eye of the public by reacting to events and issues arising.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Knesset would invest all that energy into finding solutions for the more than one million Israeli children that live under the poverty line?  To fight pollution? To solve the ever increasing traffic snarls on Israel’s roads? To decrease the number of deaths in traffic accident? To reduce crowding in hospitals? To bring educational levels to OECD standards? There are a dozen other good causes that our representatives should be dealing with, some of which have even been declared to be policy goals of the current government.

I am sure that Knesset members (at least some of them) are genuinely concerned with the long list of problematic issues in Israel and are attempting to deal with them and work hard to reach solutions. But just the thought of what could be happening if all representatives would unite in putting their efforts into the real problems of Israel and not just those of this prime minister of another, is mindboggling isn’t it?

And it can be done. In this Knesset, more than in any previous one I think, the coalition MK’s are united in two projects where it is clearly shown that a concerted effort of a sufficient number of parliament really can get things done.

The first project of course is the settlements in the occupied West Bank. Intensive efforts are underway, both legislative and otherwise, to legalize, expand, improve and promote the Israeli settlements and any and all initiatives by the coalition are pursued relentlessly. The results of these efforts show and the Israel is more than ever succeeding in establishing an irremovable presence in the Territories.

The second project is the “strengthening” of the Status Quo. The religious partners in the coalition are using every means to force their demands on their partners and will not hesitate to threaten with a coalition crisis if it will help them get their way. The result is an increase in religious coercion of which we surely have not seen the end yet.

So, may we still have hopes that our representatives in the Knesset will bundle their forces and start to take care of the issues that really matter?

Somehow it doesn’t seem like it……