The Likud Enigma and Unparliamentary Language – Opinion

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On Monday, former Knesset Speaker and Minister of Health MK Yuli Edelstein announced that he was planning to fight for the Likud leadership against current leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

There is no shortage of Likud MPs who have declared their intention to fight for the leadership of Likud, but in recent years Edelstein is only the second (the first was Gideon Saar) to decide to challenge Netanyahu rather than wait. his departure.

At the end of December 2019, Saar obtained 27.5% of the vote in the Likud Central Committee, against 72.5% for Netanyahu. A public opinion poll conducted after Edelstein announced his intention to run, conducted last Tuesday, found that 86% of Likud voters preferred Netanyahu and only 4% preferred Edelstein, and Likud under Netanyahu would win 34 seats in the Knesset if elections were to take place. now, and only 20 seats in the Knesset if led by Edelstein.

However, the poll also showed that Edelstein, with 20 Knesset seats, has a much better chance than Netanyahu, with 34 seats, of forming a government. In other words, although Netanyahu has the direct support of more than a quarter of the Israeli population, parties that do not want to see him as prime minister represent more than 50% of the voters and more than 50% of the seats in Israel. the Knesset. Nothing has changed in this regard over the past three years.

This is the basis of the Likud conundrum: Netanyahu cannot form a government – and although support for Edelstein in Likud is painfully low, only him, or one of the other potential crown candidates (for yet, every Ashkenazi male, over 60), has a chance to bring Likud back to power for the foreseeable future.

YULI EDELSTEIN – his message was that there is no reason to believe that if Netanyahu leads the party again he will be more successful in forming a government than he has the last four times . (credit: Yonatan Zendel / Flash90)

It seems only Netanyahu and his cheerleading community reject this perception of reality and continue to act as if the current government can be toppled ASAP.

Current tactics used by the opposition, under Netanyahu’s leadership, in an attempt to bring down, or at least weaken, the Bennett coalition include holding endless obstructions (which usually end in a vote in which the coalition obtains the majority); get Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to address the plenary assembly, then interrupt his speech with constant and unpleasant comments; and delivering speeches in which the government in general and Bennett in particular are mocked and humiliated, an activity in which Netanyahu himself plays an active role.

Most of the opposition are also boycotting committee meetings, refusing to appoint permanent representatives. In addition, as the leader of the opposition, Netanyahu is entitled to receive a monthly briefing on various secret matters from Bennett, but refuses to come. Who knows? Perhaps he managed to concoct private and clandestine briefings elsewhere. It does not go beyond him.

The amount of anti-parliamentary verbiage that emanates from the opposition, but especially Likud, is unbearable. Among the 30 Likud MPs, most of those participating in this activity are (unfortunately) Mizrahi MPs. Last Monday, at the special session held at the request of the opposition, in which Bennett was called upon to defend his government’s budget, I counted 10 Likud MPs (not counting Netanyahu himself) who participated in the shameful performance. Nine of them were Mizrahim. The more experienced Ashkenazi Likud MPs who were present in the chamber mostly bowed their heads, apparently in embarrassment.

There is little the coalition can do to stop this horrific phenomenon.

The Speaker of the Knesset and his deputies cannot demand that those addressing the House withdraw a comment if it refers to another MP as a Nazi (or other name related to the Holocaust), terrorist or murderer .

    MP Itamar Ben Gvir stepped out during a plenary session in the Parliament (Knesset) meeting room on October 11, 2021. (Credit: YONATAN SINDEL / FLASH90) MP Itamar Ben Gvir stepped out during a plenary session in the Parliament (Knesset) meeting room on October 11, 2021. (Credit: YONATAN SINDEL / FLASH90)

The Knesset Ethics Committee can also process statements by MPs in plenary or in committees, if someone inside or outside the Knesset bother to complain about them. In the past, up to 10% of committee meetings were devoted to such matters, but, alas, in the 24th Knesset the Ethics Committee was not established, because according to the rules it must include two members of the coalition and two of the opposition, but the opposition (with the exception of the Joint List) refuses to nominate its member (s).

The problem of unparliamentary language has worsened in the 20th Knesset – following the establishment of Netanyahu’s first purely religious right-wing government and the entry of maverick Oren Hazan into the Knesset on the Knesset’s list. Likud. On July 20, 2015, the Ethics Committee, chaired by MP Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), sent the following letter to all MPs:

“Due to the deterioration of speech in the Knesset plenum in recent weeks, which is unpleasant to our ears, and the many appeals reaching the Ethics Committee, from which we can learn the serious damage to the status of the Knesset in the eyes of the public, the Ethics Committee feels obliged to try to get rid of the phenomenon with the tools at its disposal.

“While the committee will continue to defend the right of Members of Parliament to as much free political and ideological expression as possible, it will not tolerate expressions that include obscene language, slander, insults and the degradation of individuals and communities.” … “

The committee warned MPs that in the future it will be stricter in the sanctions it imposes, to the point of withdrawing MPs from Knesset sessions.

The situation is much worse today than it was six years ago in the 20th Knesset, and while the Ethics Committee was appointed and was active today, many MPs, especially from the opposition – including Netanyahu himself – would undoubtedly be summoned by her. , or would be much more careful in what they say, finding ways around the rules.

We remember the 19th century story of former British Conservative politician Benjamin Disraeli (who was of Jewish origin), who, after being reprimanded by the Speaker of the House of Commons for saying that “half of the (liberal) cabinet is donkeys, “withdrew his statement and replaced it with” half of the cabinet is not donkeys “.

Netanyahu’s speech at the plenum last Monday was, as usual, rhetorically excellent but full of slanderous slurs directed at Bennett and “factual inaccuracies” – some deliberate and other incidental.

If the ethics committee were active today, it could certainly find some treasure in Netanyahu’s speech. Perhaps he would also discover that, as usual, historical accuracy is not one of Netanyahu’s strengths – as when he referred in his speech to the Palestinian leader at the time of the mandate. British Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, as “Faisal Husseini”, who was a Palestinian politician who was responsible for Jerusalem affairs on behalf of the Palestinian Authority after the Oslo Accords, and occupied his post at Maison d’Orient in East Jerusalem until his sudden death in 2001.

It will be interesting to see if, once the government approves the 2021/2022 budget around mid-November, Netanyahu will finally solve his personal conundrum as opposition leader – one way or another – and stop shaming himself and the Knesset.

The writer was a researcher at the Knesset Research and Information Center until her retirement, and recently published a book in Hebrew, The Work of the Knesset Member – Undefined Work, soon to be published in English by Routledge.


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