A former MK reflects on the political state of affairs

Sources from within the negotiations have told me that the Likud offered a deal whereby Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would serve as prime minister until the beginning of May.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Yisrael Beteynu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: REUTERS)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Yisrael Beteynu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Everywhere I go these days – the store, the bus, synagogue, and certainly when I give speeches – people ask me what I think about the political stalemate and chaos that Israel is experiencing. I am so startled by what has happened that it has taken me a few days to comprehend the reality that we are heading to a third election in one year.
Who do I blame?
I see the leaders of both Blue and White and Likud as responsible for the failure to form a government. I understand that Blue and White declared that they would never sit in a government with an indicted prime minister, and that doing so would not only mean reneging on a campaign promise but also swallowing a value that I very much respect.
But there is a concept in Judaism called eit la’asot l’Hashem heifeiru Toratecha – “there is a time to act for God and to break the Torah” – times that require going against the dictates of the Torah in order to do an act “for God” and save the Jewish people and the transmission of its Torah.
Sources from within the negotiations have told me that the Likud offered a deal whereby Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would serve as prime minister until the beginning of May, and would then step aside to deal with his trial. Blue and White head Benny Gantz would become prime minister, and the No. 1 goal – moving aside Netanyahu and showing that someone else can serve in that office – will have been accomplished. In addition, Gabi Ashkenazi could have been defense minister and Yair Lapid could have been foreign affairs minister.
I can think of no greater eit la’asot for Blue and White to “break the Torah” than to create a unity government with Likud, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister for six months. Let’s remember: now that we are heading to a third election, Netanyahu remains prime minister for close to that amount of time anyway.
I know there are many in Blue and White who said that they do not trust Netanyahu, and do not believe that he would leave office in May. But there are statutes that could have been passed to enshrine into law that he would have to do so. So Blue and White is to blame.
The blame equally falls to the Likud and Netanyahu. I completely understand their argument that the right-wing/religious bloc of 55 seats voted on the assumption that their representatives would support Netanyahu for prime minister, and that they did not want to abandon those supporters.
I also understand Netanyahu’s desire to have an additional 32 mandates in his coalition beyond Likud to provide him with support. But the Blue and White demand that it first enters a unity government with just Likud and then explore bringing other parties into the coalition was more than just reasonable. It was based on the logic that a majority of the country wants to see governing from the political center, and the 67 mandates of Likud and Blue and White would provide just that. The majority in the center would be setting the agenda for the country and not any of the extremes – as it should be. Asking Blue and White to swallow Netanyahu as prime minister while under indictment and the entire right-wing/bloc joining along with the Likud was unfair. So Likud is to blame.
AND WHILE I also blame Avigdor Liberman and Amir Peretz for not bringing their parties into a Likud-led government, I do not believe that a narrow government led by a prime minister under indictment would have been the best thing for our country. But since they could have prevented torturing the country with a third election within 11 months, they are also accountable for the ridiculous situation that has been forced on the people of Israel.
What bothers me the most, though, is that this 22nd Knesset did not take any action to make sure that we don’t find ourselves in the exact same situation on March 3 – as all polls indicate will happen. Somehow they found the ability to legislate that each party will receive NIS 700,000 more than they did for the September election, and that each faction will receive a whopping NIS 430,000 per Knesset member for campaigning – a 30% increase that is a disgrace in and of itself.
But that they passed a law for increased funding while not passing legislation to prevent the current stalemate from repeating itself is simply incomprehensible. Israel’s founding leaders never could have imagined the political chaos that we are experiencing, so there is no law governing this situation other than continuing to go to another election. The 22nd Knesset owed it to the people of Israel to pass a constitutional law that mandates a change if after three elections no one is able to form a government.
There are numerous ideas regarding what that law would say to FORCE the two largest parties to work together. For instance: if they cannot work together, then none of the existing MKs in those parties can run for reelection. That alone would force them to create a unity government.
The law could go even further and declare that if they cannot form a government, then Knesset members and ministers will not be paid during the subsequent election campaign. (Did you know that MK’s are getting a raise this January 1, and the monthly salary will now rise above NIS 45,000?) That for sure would force them to find a solution.
But they didn’t.
They voted for the dispersal of the Knesset while making sure they have more money to use in the election, but did not even try to pass legislation to prevent a fourth election. And for that all 120 MK’s are to blame!
I love the Knesset. When I bring groups there I tell them that the very existence of a parliament of the Jewish state in which legislators debate and decide what is best for the Jewish people is a fulfillment of 2,000 years of prayers in exile that we not be bound to the decisions of foreign kings and czars. But now the vacuum of leadership and lack of action by our “leaders” has caused a real crisis of confidence of the Knesset as an institution. And that is such a shame.
Now we are all forced to go to the polls to vote for the same candidates and the same slates, with the parties having more of the public’s money stuffed into their pockets that will undoubtedly ensure we arrive at the same stalemate again.
For the sake of the Knesset as an institution, and for the benefit of the wonderful citizens who make up this country, I sure hope I am wrong.
The writer served as a member of the 19th Knesset.