The Knesset doesn't care about the will of the people
Opinion: Far-right and ultra-Orthodox MKs have been citing 'the will of the people' recently every time they try to legitimize their narrow agenda; but the public didn't vote against a draft law, nor for an immunity law for politicians set to face charges
Ever since the results of the Israeli elections were announced, we’ve been hearing non-stop about “the will of the people.” Every ridiculous idea proposed by the far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties is met with the same response - the people have decided.
That notion, however, is incorrect. The people didn’t vote to accept a list of demands made by the Agudat Israel or Shas parties. Although it’s true the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox bloc won some 56.22 percent of the overall vote (including the parties that didn’t pass the threshold), it doesn’t mean the people have decided against a new IDF draft law, intended to draft the ultra-Orthodox to the military.
It also doesn’t mean the people decided to annex the West Bank, increase budgets for Haredi education, and exempt the ultra-Orthodox from studying core subjects (Math, English, Science and Hebrew). And it certainly doesn’t mean the people decided to grant those accused of fraud protection from indictment.
In the existing coalition system, an excessive amount of power is given to small parties that barely pass the electoral threshold, and following the April 9 vote, the amount of such parties has grown significantly. The small parties in Israel are not concerned with preserving a stable political environment and its integrity. These parties have an agenda and they don’t really care what the general public wants.
Small parties have the power to impose their will, even if it means going against the popular opinion on certain issues. A unity government (even if it’s headed by the right-wing), would have reflected the will of the public much better than a right-wing and ultra-Orthodox coalition. Unfortunately, it will not happen even if the majority prefers it.
The sad truth is that having a consensus within the coalition on certain issues doesn’t make it a popular opinion among the general public. That's the flaw in the system. Former center-left coalitions (just like the right-wing ones) were also forced to yield to extortion from small coalition partners, threatening to bring about a collapse of the government. Thus, the people are not the ones who decide. It’s the minority that does and imposes it on everyone else.
This issue becomes much more serious when a ruling party proposes restoring legislation granting Knesset members parliamentary immunity in order to protect its leader from an upcoming indictment. This sort of proposal, that would turn the Knesset into a safe haven for criminals - has nothing to do with the will of the people.
Not only did the people not decide on exempting Netanyahu from an indictment. Election contenders themselves said that they won't support bids that would make the Knesset a felon's sanctuary.
Netanyahu said, just a day before the elections, that "there will be no immunity law" on his interview with channel 13 news. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and MK Gideon Saar, both Likud Party members, also said they won't support legislation that proposes immunity. It's true, promises given during election campaigns are often quickly broken, for a million excuses. However, one thing must be clear: the people didn’t decide on immunity — not for the prime minister, nor for others.
I must confess. I've been writing against the rule of judges for years, the rule that is supposedly there to save us from dangerous politicians. History shows that when such politicians come to power, no court can save the public from them. And in many cases, politicians are far more enlightened individuals than judges.
But will we be seeing dangerous legislation in Knesset's term to come? Let's hope not. But if we do, we must remember that it isn't going to be because the people had decided on it. It's going to be because dangerous politicians have decided to trample the will of the majority.