Yisrael Beiteinu won a resounding victory in the elections four months ago. The party scored no less than 15 seats in the Knesset. Yet last week it suffered a setback in the cabinet when its most loudly touted legislative proposal, which it rode in all its campaign ads, smashed into a brick wall in the form of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
The bill put forward by Yisrael Beiteinu member David Rotem, widely known as the "citizenship and loyalty oath bill," would have made citizenship contingent on a declaration of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish, Zionist state. But other than the members of Yisrael Beiteinu, not one minister supported the bill.
Yisrael Beiteinu's Robert Ilatov hastened to mollify disappointed party supporters: "From our perspective, this isn't the end of the story," Ilatov said. "I have no doubt that Yisrael Beiteinu will try to advance the law again."
The bill's demise in its very first test - the Ministerial Committee on Legislation - does not bode well for its fathers. But if you're anxious about the loyalty of Israel's citizens, we have some constructive advice.
Start small. Take a first small step before demanding that all Israeli citizens swear to their loyalty.
An alternative proposal: Loyalty to the public oath
Here is an alternative proposal that Avigdor Lieberman could submit to the committee. It also deals with loyalty, but it starts with a smaller population group, a more select one with clear boundaries, a group more committed than any other to the state's welfare: Israel's ministers, Knesset members and government leaders.
The bill, let's call it "loyalty to the public oath," would consist of three articles:
b Any person suspected of serious criminal offenses such as money laundering, breach of trust, corruption or obstruction of justice may not serve as a cabinet minister unless the attorney general decrees that the chance of charges being filed are remote, that the investigation was carried out too long, or that the evidence of malfeasance is scanty.
b All Knesset members, ministers or high-ranking public officials in control of public resources, franchises, land allocations, procurement and so forth must give the state comptroller a statement of wealth covering the three years before their government appointment, all their years in the public sector, and the three years after they leave the government's employ.
Say for instance that a minister or MK was making hundreds of thousands of shekels a year before joining the public sector, and yet his assets miraculously grew during his years of public service by much more than he earned. The public should be entitled to an explanation; who paid him and what for.
Of equally keen interest is the state of the minister's finances after he leaves the job. We all remember the case of Shimon Sheves, who suddenly became a millionaire right after leaving as a top aide to the prime minister, though he had zero experience in business.
b Any minister or MK who opposes economic reforms that would shackle the power of the big trade unions that voted for his party and/or him, or opposes reforms that would constrain the business of the powerful families, would have to explain why he voted as he did. He would have to detail his ties with the representatives of the unions or families.
Take Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, who demanded that the initiative to allow a fifth cellular service provider in Israel be removed from the Economic Arrangements Law. He'd have to explain why he thinks the interests of the five major investors in that sector here prevail over the interest of 5 million to 6 million cellular-service consumers.
'Like my father says, it's all good'
In the introduction to the "loyalty to the public oath" bill, Yisrael Beiteinu could present points from its election manifesto. We found several plain statements in the very first paragraphs, which can only be applauded.
"More than 50 years after its establishment, we are witness to Israel's deterioration in many areas. The state that was supposed to be home has turned into a 'rented apartment' for many of us. Hundreds of thousands of citizens feel alienated in their own homes. The social crisis is deepening. The state is run by an oligarchy, a thin layer that in practice holds the power and influence in its hands. That layer sees itself as an elite: The other social echelons are mere woodcutters and water carriers to it. Characteristics such as talent, diligence, education and professionalism have ceased to be criteria in evaluating a person. Social standing in a certain clique has become the dominant factor in evaluating a person, his characteristics, his abilities and his work."
Well said, Yisrael Beiteinu. Strange that they seem blissfully unaware that their own leader has proven the very opposite: that talent triumphs in Israel more than anywhere else.
As a reminder, Avigdor Lieberman's daughter Michal managed to accrue at least NIS 12 million in profit, in her early 20s, from international business. To this day Lieberman the father, the man behind the "citizenship and loyalty oath," hasn't explained to the public how a young woman could accrue giant sums like that.
There are only two possibilities. Either Yisrael Beiteinu has it completely wrong, and a person unconnected with the oligarchy but blessed with true talent can become a multimillionaire, or Israelis have become so blunted, so foolish and so rotten that the public votes people into power even though their wealth stinks to high heaven.
Something of course can be done: tackle the rising corruption, contend with the public's feeling of helplessness vis-a-vis the oligarchs and the regime.
The next time you glance at the income tax figure on your payslip, or your cellular phone bill, or think of how some government authority is abusing you, try to adopt the positive attitude, the conciliatory approach, of the Lieberman family, as shown by the statement daughter Michal once issued when entering a police questioning session: "Like my father says, it's all good."
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