After many months during which he even lent a hand to anti-democratic legislative initiatives, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that he will let Likud MKs vote according to their consciences on whether to set up parliamentary committees to probe human-rights organizations identified with the left. Netanyahu’s decision is expected to halt the attempt to turn the fight against “the delegitimization of Israel around the world” into a fight against the legitimacy of minority groups in Israeli society.
The burial of the investigative committees will save Israel embarrassment at a time when the world is cheering the courageous civil societies in Arab countries that are fighting for freedom of expression and association.
Monitoring and fearless criticism of government agencies are the heart and soul of democracy. Elected officials are not the proper people to investigate the funding sources of human-rights organizations.
The prime minister decided to withdraw his support from the initiative by Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman after the State Prosecutor’s Office notified the High Court of Justice that establishing parliamentary investigative committees could have a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.
Netanyahu had not taken a moral stance against the extreme right − including members of Likud’s parliamentary faction − who are leading the incitement campaign against the left and the Arab minority. He stood aside when the Knesset committee approved the makeup of the investigative committees. The prime minister made do with a tepid response to Lieberman’s arrogant denunciations of four senior Likud figures who stood up courageously against the evil spirit sweeping their voters.
He should adopt the approach of Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Michael Eitan, who consistently take firm principled positions against initiatives that seek to use the parliamentary majority to curtail the minority’s basic rights. We hope the prime minister’s last-minute decision to prevent such disgraceful investigative committees marks the start of the renunciation of Lieberman’s distorted perception of the democratic system.
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