Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Photo: Ynet
Likud MK and Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar

The Knesset is drowning in vulgarity

Opinion: The crudeness and mafioso-like attitude we have all recently been exposed to by several of our elected officials only serves to drag Israeli politics and the public discourse down to dangerous new depths

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Published: 10.15.20 , 23:29
The problem with Israeli politics is not a matter of left or right, nor is it about supporting or criticizing the attorney general or the state prosecutor.
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  • Criticizing the judiciary and law enforcement is very much legitimate in an correctly functioning country such as Israel.
    Likud MK Miki ZoharLikud MK Miki Zohar
    Likud MK and Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar
    (Amit Shabi)
    The problem is the style in which it is done, and the vulgarity that has overtaken public discourse.
    This week, journalists Guy Peleg and Amit Segal revealed recordings of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit both before he assumed his current position and after.
    In the recordings, Mandelblit is heard slamming then-state prosecutor Shai Nitzan during a conversation with the disgraced former head of the Israel Bar Association Efi Nave, who is currently facing his own criminal charges.
    The revelation of the recordings was worthy, as it served to raise a lot of questions that need answering.
    But then the coalition chairman, Likud MK Miki Zohar, apparently decided to prove to the public there is actually a far graver problem with the tone of political debate than had previously been thought.
    After the release of the recordings, Zohar went on the radio to launch a horror show of threats against Mandelblit.
    If you don’t quit, Zohar told the attorney general on live radio, if you don’t drop the criminal charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, more recordings will be revealed.
    Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit discusses his decision to indict Benjamin NetanyahuAttorney General Avichai Mandelblit discusses his decision to indict Benjamin Netanyahu
    Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit discussing his decision to indict Benjamin Netanyahu, November 2019
    (Photo: GPO)
    Netanyahu, to his credit, immediately distanced himself from this shameful display. And shortly afterwards Zohar himself retracted his threats.
    This was not the first example of public gutter talk this month. Ten days ago, former soccer star and current talk show host Eyal Berkovic branded the Likud party “a gang of criminals.”
    This was an unnecessary slur that somehow did not elicit any reaction from Berkovic’s editors on the show.
    But then Transportation Minister Miri Regev, herself a Likud MK, took it upon herself to go on Berkovic's program.
    And, as if determined to prove Berkovic’s point, Regev began spewing threats that she would deny him the chance to manage Israel’s national soccer team until he apologized.
    The Likud party is not a gang of criminals, but Zohar and Regev’s recent mafia-like threats prove that Israeli politics is falling into a frightening place.
    מירי רגבמירי רגב
    Transportation Minister Miri Regev
    (Photo: Avi Moalem)
    The parade of shameful showings from politicians continued this week and took a turn from mafia-like to outright disgraceful when Likud MK Keren Barak let loose in the Knesset on two lawmakers from her own party, May Golan and Osnat Mark.
    “You and that other idiot blonde," she told Golan, "the heel on the sole of my shoe is worth more than you.”
    The cause of the outburst is not important. There have always been and will always be arguments in the Knesset, but not in such a shameful and derogatory style.
    The Knesset includes many serious people, both on the right and the left. Only a few weeks ago we witnessed a speech by Blue & White MK Tehila Friedman, who said: “I seek to forge an alliance of moderates, with all the forces from all sectors, who understand this challenge called coexistence."
    It was a somber and moving speech, but Friedman - who showed that she doesn't need to curse, threaten or call anyone an idiot - has not been heard in the Knesset since.
    There are quite a few like her, who do honest parliamentary work even during these times of adversity.
    Even so, the vulgarity and the mafia-like attitude we have all been exposed to at the hands of several of our politicians serves to plunge Israeli politics to a new low.
    Former MK Oren Hazan Former MK Oren Hazan
    Former MK Oren Hazan
    (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
    The Knesset has an ethics committee that can sanction MKs who step out of line. One example is former Likud MK Oren Hazan, who was repeatedly banned from Knesset meetings due to his questionable conduct, until he was finally ousted by his party.
    Today, it seems Hazan has quite a few heirs to his throne of vulgarity.
    One can only hope the ethics committee will step in to turn the tide - for the sake of the Knesset and the entire country.

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