Analysis

Knesset Walkout During EU Parliament Chief's Speech Is a New Low for Israel

Wednesday's display of provinciality and victimhood broke all records for foolishness and embarrassment in our legislature.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

The display of provinciality and victimhood in the Knesset on Wednesday during the speech of the president of the European Parliament broke all records for foolishness and embarrassment in our legislature.

The senior German politician, Martin Schulz, who is known as a friend of Israel who vehemently objects to boycotts, dared to quote young Palestinians in his speech who had complained to him about discrimination in the allocation of water between the settlements and the villages near them in the West Bank – data that had appeared in the past in World Bank reports, for example. “I haven’t checked the data,” Schulz said in the speech, which he made in German. “I’m asking you if this is correct.”

At that point the speaker was fair game. Members of Habayit Hayehudi - who can apparently only stomach compliments like those delivered by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper - went ballistic.

MK Moti Yogev, in a comic move that topped that of Fledermaus from the Cameri Quintet sketch (“Haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?”), stood up in the plenum and gave Schulz a kindergarten-level lesson in Bible and modern history. “The Holy One, Blessed be He, gave Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people,” shouted Yogev, and when he saw the cameras were directed at him, he paused a moment before delivering the punch line, “The German people support those who incite to annihilate the Jews!”

His colleague, Orit Strock, started to scurry around the hall like a teenager run amok, encouraging other members of her faction to walk out. Whoever didn’t obey was reprimanded by angry hand gestures. “She forgot that a Jew doesn’t expel another Jew,” one MK muttered angrily in her direction, playing on the slogan used by the religious camp opposed to the Gaza disengagement.

In the end, everyone in the party walked out, of course, including chairman Naftali Bennett, who afterward took the podium and lashed out at Schulz. The economy minister, who travels the world, including to Europe, of course, to promote the Israeli economy, once again forgot that he is a senior government minister obligated to observe basic norms of behavior. When he blows a fuse he goes back to being a tempestuous youth group member. Only two weeks ago he was forced to apologize for personally insulting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One wonders how he will explain Wednesday’s insulting and childish act to his European colleagues in the future.

But that was not the end of the show of crying, wailing, and keening in the Knesset. Netanyahu categorically dismissed Schulz’s questions. He said the real numbers were “much lower,” but didn’t say what they were. Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat also felt a pressing need to take potshots at the senior parliamentarian. She went up to the podium and said, “We gave him every respect … but when he tells an outright lie, and in German, no wonder MKs and ministers get upset.”

Livnat didn’t say in which language she’d prefer to hear outright lies. She chose to forget that the economic and security assistance that Germany has given us over the past decades was also given “in German.” Next week a delegation of German ministers led by Chancellor Angela Merkel is due here. One assumes that she, too, will address the Knesset in German. Perhaps she should start working on her English – or better yet, her Hebrew – so as to avoid Livnat’s wrath.

But the piece de resistance was undoubtedly the speech by Minister Uri Orbach, also of Habayit Hayehudi, who said, “The generation of the parents of the minister who spoke here, who was born in 1955 – and I don’t know his family’s personal biography – and the generation of some of the Arab MKs, of their parents, some of them, joined up during some of the most difficult years [to make sure] the Jewish people wouldn’t be there, and wouldn’t be here.”

It’s no wonder that Knesset veterans look at the heirs of the National Religious Party and find themselves longing for the likes of Zevulun Orlev, Shaul Yahalom and Yitzhak Levy, not to mention their predecessors Zevulun Hammer and Yosef Burg.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset, Oct. 16, 2013.Credit: Haaretz Archive / Amos Ben Gershom, GPO