Ben-Dror Yemini
Ben-Dror Yemini
Photo: Ynet
Knesset votes on West Bank bill

Israeli public once again tossed aside over political games

Opinion: Opposition chose to kill a bill that ensures Israeli law in West Bank settlements, leaving their own constituents lacking health care, while their geographical strongholds become sanctuaries for criminals and terrorists

Ben-Dror Yemini |
Updated: 06.07.22, 23:28
Israeli democracy has seen harder times than the current ones.
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  • During parliamentary debates over the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel was in the midst of a deadly terror wave and the government was barely holding on to power.
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    מליאת הכנסת
    מליאת הכנסת
    Knesset votes on West Bank bill
    (Photo: Knesset spokesperson)
    Back then, the opposition fought fiercely against what they disapproved of on ideological grounds. These days, however, the right-wing opposition is waging its unprecedented war against its own ideology.
    The opposition's move on Monday to block the coalition bill, which would renew a 55-year old emergency act ensuring Israeli law extends to West Bank settlements, never before in doubt, proves that when it comes to this opposition, the national interests take a back seat to political ones.
    "Why should we help a coalition we are opposed to?" Opposition members ask, as if there are no matters on hand where both sides of the parliament genuinely disagree on - such as the budget, military service of the ultra-Orthodox, or any number of other reforms Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government is advancing.
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    Ultra-Orthodox members of the right-wing and religious opposition in the Knesset
    Ultra-Orthodox members of the right-wing and religious opposition in the Knesset
    Ultra-Orthodox members of the right-wing and religious opposition in the Knesset
    (Photo: AP)
    Must the efforts to topple this government come at the expense of the country and its interests? Must the need to create chaos and fulfil a desire to embarrass the coalition come at such a cost?
    Failing to renew the bill - which was nearly automatically renewed every five years since it was first passed - would result in considerable harm to Israelis living in the West Bank.
    Hundreds of thousands of settlers will lose their eligibility for health care, their settlements would become sanctuaries for criminals escaping Israel's police, and since a military rule will only solve some problems, the claims of an apartheid regime in the West Bank would only increase.
    And lo and behold, former left-wing party leader Shelly Yachimovich after the vote rushed to claim the failure to pass the bill is "normalization of apartheid". But, it's not exactly correct because the state has the right to apply its laws to its nationals even outside the official borders of the state. Israel's rule over the disputed territories, however, should be a separate debate.
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    Aerial view shows a Palestinian village, left, and a settlement, right, separated by the partition wall on the West Bank
    Aerial view shows a Palestinian village, left, and a settlement, right, separated by the partition wall on the West Bank
    Aerial view shows a Palestinian village, left, and a settlement, right, separated by the partition wall on the West Bank
    (Photo: AP)
    But not only the opposition voted against the bill. Members of Bennett's own coalition raised their hands in opposition of it as well. They all have excuses, claiming to have voted according to their conscious, but that's dishonest of them.
    They understand the fragility of the coalition, but also understand that their nay vote would not change Israel's rule over the West Bank. All they have done is provide assistance to the far-right and religious factions. Their votes cannot be seen as anything but shameful.
    Membership in this coalition demands compromise. The vote on Monday indicates it is time to change the election system to one where an elected MK must answer to regional constituents. Perhaps then, legislators will consider the interests of voters and not solely their own.
    But since such a change in election laws could weaken the ultra-Orthodox parties, there is little chance that they would ever be seriously considered.
    It is within the right of any member of Knesset to oppose his party's policies and vote according to ideology or conscious. But when by doing so, individual legislators put their own coalition at risk, and are unable to bow to commitments made and parliamentary rules, they should vacate their Knesset seats and leave.
    As thing stand, MKs are in position to extort the government to receive funds, jobs or any other perks that they desire.
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    Former coalition whip Idit Silman who defected to the opposition
    (Photo: Knesset spokesperson)
    It is in the interest of all political parties to pass legislation that would prevent such extortion. And although it is unlikely that the current opposition would sign on to make such a change, perhaps it would be considered after the next elections.
    We would all benefit from parliamentarians who look beyond short-term and immediate interests, and adopt an approach with a broader view into the future.
    Monday's vote produced benefit only for members of the predominately Arab Joint List, made up of anti-Zionist legislators.
    Once upon a time our MKs had maturity and were responsible for their actions. That is no longer the case.
    First published: 23:26, 06.07.22
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