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Netanyahu's Efforts to Allow Cameras at Polling Stations Is a Mere Distraction

The prime minister's draft bill was a red herring. The furor that he knew the whole initiative would cause had a number of political objectives

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, September 3, 2019.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, September 3, 2019.Credit: AFP
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers’ attempts to assassinate Israeli democracy and alter the rules of the game that have been used around here for 71 years have many ugly and frightening sides.

Their efforts to push through a bill to allow cameras to be placed at polling stations on Election Day – which has apparently failed – was a slap in the face to the parliamentary system, which has been battered continually over the past decade.

Neither the Knesset plenum nor any of its committees can be convened while the parliament is in an election recess without the approval of the Arrangements Committee, which consists of members from both the coalition and the opposition.

Even during the present recess, if Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avi Dichter would ask to convene his committee or a subcommittee on an urgent security matter, the Arrangements Committee would have to approve it. The same goes for convening the Finance Committee, headed by Moshe Gafni. This is how it has always been. Until now.

Moreover, the present government is presiding over the disbanded 21st Knesset, without being formally entrusted to do so. As we recall, no official government was formed after the April election, so the present one has zero authority and no moral or constitutional mandate to pass a proposed draft bill during the recess. This is how it has always been. Until now.

Cameras installed by activists near Arab polling stations. Credit: Hadash Spokesperson's Office

We no longer have any expectations of Netanyahu. In his desire to flee the trial on charges of corruption and fraud that awaits him, he's only showing disdain for inter-party norms and agreements. But where is the Knesset speaker in all this? Yuli Edelstein is considered to be a “sane” and statesmanlike figure in the Likud faction. He is also being seriously considered as Israel’s next president.

His reelection to the post of Knesset speaker was supported by some 100 MKs, who believed in his integrity and decency. If he had opened the Knesset session on Monday and approved the expedited legislation, he would have brought eternal disgrace on the Israeli parliament, on his lofty, semi-official position (he is the acting president of the country when the president is abroad), and his own reputation.

This draft bill was a red herring. A distraction, a diversion or simply a form of incitement. In this case, the stench emanates from the very top. The whole initiative that was concocted by Netanyahu – or one of his advisers – had a number of objectives:

* To incite, as is his custom, against the Arab community. A punching bag that never disappoints.

* To spur his voters, some of whom are demonstrating apathy (according to Likud polls), to come to the polling stations on September 17 – both in order to cast ballots and to arouse a commotion, which would likely constitute a public basis for a future claim to nullify the election.

* To sear into the consciousness of his “base” that the Central Elections Committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, is acting against him and against Likud (yet another reason for a demand to invalidate the election).

* For the same rationale, but for personal motives, to denigrate Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who is supposed to hold a pre-indictment hearing in Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000 during the first week of October.

* To subordinate the media agenda to the fictitious issue of “stealing the election” until Thursday, when Netanyahu will be meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the context of that last item, we note the recent crazy tweets by Yair Netanyahu: The one about Yitzhak Rabin “the murderer” was erased, and his father absolved himself of responsibility for it (very unconvincingly), but there is no doubt that this is just the type of poison that has been poured into the ears of the crown prince since he was old enough to understand things. Now, when a possible defeat for his dad is on the horizon, the restraints on his fingers, which functioned partially, have weakened entirely.

The situation at the prime minister's home on Balfour Street is not as it once was; apparently, it was never a model of stability. Media reports about testimony to the police by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson – the owners of the free daily Israel Hayom – in which they describe Sara Netanyahu as “totally crazy” and “obsessive” (as noted on Sunday on Channel 13 by Aviad Glickman), don’t add well-being or fortitude to the resident of Balfour. Craziness, wickedness and passions are running riot in the home of The Leader.