Israeli politics are now dangerously being put before life - editorial

The latest clash in the government surrounds a bill that would give Israel Police jurisdiction over Israeli civilians living in Judea and Samaria.

 Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu gestures at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 16, 2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu gestures at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on May 16, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Another week, another embarrassment for the coalition.

Yet again, it was demonstrated loud and clear how without a parliamentary majority, a coalition just cannot function.

This week it was about the Judea and Samaria bill, which extends emergency regulations over the West Bank and is passed automatically every five years. The bill basically allows for the governance of Israeli civilians living in Judea and Samaria, outside Israel’s sovereign borders. It is a bill that enables citizens living in the West Bank to live under Israeli law without having to annex the territories.

Among the legal arenas that are impacted would be the right of the government to tax citizens living in the settlements, as well as the citizens’ right to receive state health insurance and national insurance.

If the bill does not pass, it would prevent the Israel Police from operating in the settlements, leaving criminal matters in the hands of the Military Police. Civilians charged with offenses would find themselves before a military court and facing time in military prisons.

 Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a plenum session in the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 23, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar raised concern this week since as of now, there is no majority to pass this bill.

At the same time, the “Netanyahu bloc” of the opposition (which includes the Likud, the haredi Orthodox parties and the far-Right) officially declared on Monday that it would not vote in favor of a government-sponsored bill.

It came after the soldiers’ scholarships bill fiasco, in which the opposition let the coalition pass the bill, not before having it sweat and amend it according to its demands.

If the Netanyahu bloc follows through with its declarations, it means that potentially, the coalition would not be able to pass basic laws (which require a majority of 61 MKs) and even pass simple laws would become a major headache.

We call on the parties to put their differences aside and allow the Judea and Samaria bill to pass.

If it expires at the end of the month, it will not only lead to chaos in the West Bank but will also show us that politics trumps everything in our lives.

It will show us that for the opposition, their political power comes before the country’s security and that they are willing to harm it just to stick it to the coalition.

In 2015, when then prime minister Netanyahu was criticized for failing to handle the raging housing crisis, he said: “When we talk about housing prices, the cost of living, I for a moment do not forget life itself."

"The biggest challenge to our lives right now is Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons.”

Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu

Since then, Netanyahu and his allies keep repeating the phrase “life itself” in order to remind us that security comes before anything else.

So what has changed?

Why now, suddenly, does politics come before life itself? Do Netanyahu and his allies imagine a reality in which someone commits a crime in Israel, and then runs away to the lawless West Bank to hide? Do they want that?

Moreover, the debate surrounding the law is a perfect illustration of the problems Israel finds itself in when it comes to the territories. It cannot decide what it wants to do. Instead of making decisions, we just keep kicking the can down the road hoping that at some point everything will be okay.

But Israel cannot maintain this status quo forever. At some point it will have to make tough decisions regarding the future of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

Does it want Judea and Samaria to be a legal part of Israel, or would it be given to the Palestinians to establish an independent state? Does Israel wants to be a democratic state with a Jewish majority, or does it want to be a single state with two classes of citizenship? Or maybe it wants to apply sovereignty over the entire land and keep it a democracy, which will erase Israel’s Jewish character and open the door for the descendants of the 1948 Palestinian refugees to return?

There is no easy solution for this, and it requires a serious political debate.

But in Israel of June 2022, no one even bothers.

We just hope that “everything will be okay.”

It is time to wake up and start talking about our future, and not let politics come before our lives.