Israel's ministers need to do their job

‘There should be no shticks or tricks.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz talks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi walks by at a cabinet meeting on June 7 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz talks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi walks by at a cabinet meeting on June 7
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
That was the promise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to Benny Gantz – and the nation – in April during his frequent televised prime-time addresses about coronavirus restrictions, in an attempt to get the Blue and White leader to join a national emergency government.
When Gantz finally acquiesced, Netanyahu doubled down on his aims, tweeting, “I promised the State of Israel a national emergency government that will act to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel. I will continue to do everything for you, citizens of Israel.”
It seems like since then, there’s been nothing but shticks and tricks, with the tenuous coalition always appearing to be coming apart at the seams. The latest development which threatened to derail the government was a bill brought to vote Wednesday to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into judicial conflicts of interest.
Now, whether or not judges have conflicts of interest may be an issue worth investigating – and is certainly worth further scrutiny following the series of exposés on the subject in May by Kalman Liebskind in The Jerusalem Post’s sister Hebrew language newspaper, Maariv.
But it has little to do with the critical issues the country is currently dealing with. However, its timing can’t help but be seen as being connected to Netanyahu’s trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust – and as another campaign in the battle against the judiciary that the prime minister has been championing since his legal woes began.
The bill, initiated by Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich and supported by the Likud, failed to pass – by a 54 to 43 margin. But it did succeed in opening the floodgates of poison that exist between the two main coalition partners – the Likud and Blue and White.
Blue and White called it a “declaration of war on Israeli democracy,” with Gantz saying from self-quarantine: “Instead of taking care of the unemployed and the small business owners, the Likud wants to interrogate the judges... Someone who wants to harm democracy instead of saving lives is hurting Israel’s citizens, and I will not allow it.”
As Herb Keinon wrote in the Post on Wednesday, instead of focusing on the critical issues at hand of battling corona and formulating a workable battle plan to get the economy back on its feet, the coalition is spending its time on bickering and disagreements.
Even when it does seem to focus on the coronavirus pandemic, there’s no sense of bodies working together for the common good, but factions pushing their agenda and vying for attention.
Take, for example, the financial plan the government is working on to bail the country out of perhaps the worst financial crisis since the establishment of the state.
Likud MK Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s previous mayor – and someone who seemingly knows his way around financial matters – presented a comprehensive economic plan this week to Netanyahu, saying it could save 500,000 jobs if adopted. Barkat’s plan consists of a bailout of NIS 28 billion to 250,000 businesses to prevent them from shutting down; a NIS 50b. incentive to encourage public consumption and the purchase of Israeli-made goods; and a NIS 10b. grant to create new educational programs that would help train unemployed people to pursue new career paths.
However, his party rival, Finance Minister Israel Katz, together with Netanyahu, are working on their own plan, which has still not been announced as of this writing. It is said to include the extension of unemployment benefits until June 2021, a suspension of mortgage payments, business loans of NIS 23 billion and offering extra aid to people over the age of 67 who face unemployment.
Wouldn’t it be more efficient and achieve speedier results if these members of the same party worked together on the urgently needed plan? The problem is that the refusal or inability to cooperate is becoming the overriding characteristic of the leaders who are tasked with safeguarding the country and its citizens during this time of crisis.
With almost a million jobs lost – and the plight of many Israelis reaching a level of desperation, as the country seems irreversibly headed toward more restrictions that will prevent even more people from working – there is no room for rivalries, personal grudges or political considerations. It’s time to end the shticks and the tricks.