Netanyahu, opposition are petulant and foolish in Knesset battle - editorial

This policy of voting against the government no matter what, regardless of the issue or how worthy the cause, is short-sighted.

Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, May 18, 2022.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, May 18, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The ever-blunt Likud MK Miri Regev caused discomfort in many circles last month when a recording emerged of comments she made at a Likud faction meeting discussing why the party should vote against a coalition bill to provide scholarships for discharged IDF soldiers.

“We decided to be a fighting opposition and to bring down the government,” she said. “So there should be no stomachaches about soldiers, abused women or rape victims, because everyone understands the rationale.”

"There should be no stomachaches about soldiers, abused women or rape victims, because everyone understands the rationale.”

Likud MK Miri Regev

The rationale, in the world according to Regev, is that the political ends – bringing down the government – justify the means. This rationale justifies a willingness to vote against bills to provide scholarships to soldiers, or measures to help battered wives or rape victims, if it hurts the government.

It is this rationale that led the opposition last year to vote against automatically extending the Family Reunification Law, preventing Palestinians who marry Arab Israelis from acquiring Israeli citizenship, something that took months to rectify.

And it meant voting on Monday night against passing a directive, renewed every five years automatically since 1967, to give Israel legal jurisdiction over nearly 500,000 Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria.

 JUSTICE MINISTER Gideon Sa’ar addresses the Knesset plenum. He has promoted a bill to prevent incitement on social networks.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) JUSTICE MINISTER Gideon Sa’ar addresses the Knesset plenum. He has promoted a bill to prevent incitement on social networks. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

How could settlement supporters such as Likud and the Religious Zionist party vote against this measure, which was defeated, thereby joining up with the Arab Joint List and two Arab coalition MKs, for whom all settlement is anathema? How could they not extend a directive that if not passed by the end of June will create havoc for all Jews living beyond the Green Line?

Simple, because voting against the extension gives the coalition a black eye and demonstrates that it cannot even pass basic measures that until now most people have never even heard of, and were considered automatic.

In other words, Regev and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of the Likud MKs voted on Tuesday night against what they believe in, and something that runs against the interests of a good part of their constituency to score political points. In other words, if the coalition would at noontime bring a piece of legislation declaring it to be day, the opposition would vote against it and say that it is night.

That’s not serving the public, that’s simply being petulant and foolish.

For too long, it has been accepted as axiomatic that the aim of the opposition is to bring down the government. Bringing down the government may be one of the jobs of the opposition, but it is not its only task.

The job of the opposition MKs, like that of coalition MKs, is to do what is good for the country, to serve the public. They are showing a dereliction of that duty when they vote against something they believe in simply to score political points and perhaps hasten the government’s demise.

This policy of voting against the government no matter what, regardless of the issue or how worthy the cause, is also short-sighted.

Chances are good that in the not too distant future, the Likud and the Right will return to power, but if history is any indicator, probably not with a big majority. Then they, too, will need the cooperation of opposition MKs to get various pieces of legislation approved. What are the chances of this happening as a political culture of zero compromises is taking root in this country, vote after vote?

This is by no means a uniquely Israeli development. It is increasingly a fact of life in European politics, and is the cause of the current gridlock in Washington where so many key votes fall strictly along party lines.

But this has not always been the norm in Israel. If in the fairly recent past the coalition needed opposition votes to get a measure passed, compromises would be worked out to make it possible.

That is rarely the case in today’s toxic political environment, in which compromising with the other side is akin to selling one’s soul to the devil, and deemed a lack of commitment to the ultimate goal: bringing down the government.

But that isn’t the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to enact measures that serve the public. The opposition, obsessed with wanting to bring down Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, is losing sight of that.