Gantz's 61 seats is a majority – opinion

Is the intervention of the Supreme Court a violation of the sovereignty of the Knesset? The answer is a clear: no!

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu during a speech to the Knesset. (photo credit: REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu during a speech to the Knesset.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sixty-one members of Knesset advised President Reuven Rivlin to give the mandate to form a new government to MK Benny Gantz. That is a majority of MKs. Sixty-one MKs wrote to the interim chairman of the Knesset that they demand to form the essential Knesset Committees immediately including a special committee for oversight on the government’s decisions and policies concerning the corona epidemic. Sixty-one Members of Knesset are a majority.
Sixty-one MKs demanded that the interim chairman of the Knesset convene a vote on electing a chairman for the new Knesset. Sixty-one Members of Knesset are a majority.
What is the minority response? Boycott the Knesset. Boycott democracy. The response of the interim chairman of the Knesset is to not convene a vote and violate a decision of the Supreme Court of Israel along with other senior members of the government. Even some acting interim ministers of the transition government from the Likud called on the interim chairman directly not to adhere to a decision of the High Court.
Is the intervention of the Supreme Court a violation of the sovereignty of the Knesset? The answer is a clear: no!
The Supreme Court decision is in fact an act of respect for the Knesset and its independence from the executive branch of government. The Knesset is not a rubber stamp of the prime minister or the government.
The Knesset is an independent branch of government. Sixty-one MKs want to convene the Knesset, want to establish committees – the place where the real work of the Knesset takes place, and want to elect a new chairman. The decision of the Supreme Court does not violate the will of the Knesset and the majority of Israelis who voted for political parties represented by 61 MKs.
The decision of the Supreme Court enforces the will of the people and their elected representatives. Every single one of the 61-member majority are legitimate and represent a majority of the voters in Israel.
While “the majority rules” is a foundation of any democracy, the rights of the minority are no less important. I say this as usually being in the minority, knowing that my rights and those people who support what I believe have to continue to be on guard to ensure that our rights are not violated.
A functioning democracy needs a ruling coalition, but it also needs a fighting yet loyal opposition. The public has a right to always have alternative views presented. Loyal opposition means that even if they are not in the ruling coalition and not ruling the country, the opposition remains an active participant in the political process, always trying to advance its own positions and to replace the ruling coalition. That is why the behavior of the Likud right-wing minority bloc of 58 or 59 MKs. Their non-participation in the political process is a betrayal to their constituents and the citizens who voted for them. The behavior of the right-wing Likud-led minority is anti-democratic.
THE WELL-KNOWN statement of Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev - “If we can’t control the public media, then why do we need it?” - is a reflection of the distorted view of democracy that has developed within the Likud-run coalition, probably as a result of too many years in absolute power.
Of course, it is difficult to give up power. It is difficult to see your political adversaries take over the positions that you have held for so many years. It is difficult to sit in the opposition while the new majority-led ruling coalition implements policies to which you do not agree. But the key test to any democracy is peaceful transition from one regime to another.
The right-wing Likud-led coalition has spent the last months, perhaps years, spreading the delegitimization of the representation of the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. Their latest mantra is that they support terrorism. I don’t know all of the Arab MKs personally; I know most of them. I also know the Israeli law quite well.
It is quite clear to me that if any of these representatives of more than 20% of the Israeli public actually supported terrorism, they would be sitting in prison, not in the Knesset. It is legitimate to disagree with the positions and statements made by MKs. It is legitimate to take strong positions against what they are campaigning and struggling to achieve. It is not legitimate to prevent them from legitimately representing 20% of the public.
Most of the work of the Knesset has little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even the parts of the work that do confront the conflict and its manifestations - such as the occupation, settlements, policies concerning Jerusalem, international relations - the positions held by the Arab MKs are legitimate and do not only represent the positions of almost all of the Arab citizens of Israel. They also represent the positions of many Jewish citizens of Israel, including me.
I would be thrilled to see MKs from the Joint List as members of the Israeli government and as the head of Knesset committees. Israel would be a much healthier democracy if this develops over the coming days and weeks. I would also be thrilled to see the Likud sitting in the opposition and working extra hard to convince the public that their positions are better for us. Maybe then they would not abuse the power given to them by the people.
The writer is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to the State of Israel and to peace between Israel and her neighbors. His latest book, In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine, was published by Vanderbilt University Press.