In Topsy Turvy Israel, Racist MKs Are Voting for Justice

Carolina Landsmann
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Meretz's Esawi Freige  being escorted from the Knesset podium in the debate on the Kafr Qasem massacre last month.
Carolina Landsmann

Has the legislator from the Jewish front Otzma Yehudit party, Itamar Ben-Gvir, undergone treatment and become a leftist? Judging by his recent votes in the Knesset, the sworn Kahanist is overtaking Meretz chief Nitzan Horowitz and Labor Party head Merav Michaeli from the left.

On November 10 he voted in favor of an opposition bill to establish a hospital in the Arab town of Sakhnin. Horowitz and Michaeli’s parties voted against. Four months ago, thanks to Ben-Gvir’s vote, the amendment to the Citizenship Law wasn’t renewed, providing a greater chance for family unification between Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza who marry Israeli citizens. Horowitz and Michaeli supported renewal.

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Ben-Gvir a leftist? You must be kidding. Ben-Gvir isn’t really opposed to renewing the temporary order that discriminates against Arabs; after all, he wants to transfer Arab Israelis somewhere else. His vote, like those of the rest of his Jewish buddies in the opposition, is only to “embarrass the coalition.”

At least that’s what they’ve been explaining to us. Watch a disciple of Jewish superiority voting against discrimination against Arabs and an Arab from the governing coalition voting against his own people. Embarrassing, eh? There is nothing more hilarious than the kidding around in the Knesset. It’s a bit like potty humor. Parliamentary humor.

The same is true regarding the hospital in Sakhnin. The embarrassment plan went as follows: Let’s get the health minister from the left to object to a hospital in an Arab city, while the leading racist and transfer monger will vote in favor of it and enjoy every moment of the prank. What a farce.

One might have thought that the right wing voting against its conscience only to “embarrass the coalition” would be just as embarrassing as on the left. But that’s not the case. When Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich vote contrary to their racist consciences, it’s even funny. No one suspects them of having betrayed their racist values.

This is because nothing is going to happen. In a preliminary vote, the Knesset agreed to establish a hospital in Sakhnin? So it voted; the bill isn’t expected to make progress beyond that. The Knesset voted against renewing the temporary order? So? Has the Interior Ministry done anything to regularize the status of family members who are entitled to this?

Nope. In fact, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked ordered the Population and Immigration Authority to treat applications based on the legal situation before the Citizenship Law expired. In short, she thumbed her nose at the Knesset.

Last week she even received support from the State Prosecutor’s Office. Will we be hearing the opposition’s wrath about the way the coalition is disregarding it? Will protest come forth from the legislative branch over the bullying by the executive? Who will lead that protest? Ben-Gvir? Will opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu demand that the interior minister stop discriminating against the Arab citizens and respect the law and the Knesset?

The right wing in the opposition has the privilege of voting against its conscience because its positions are protected by a broad shadow coalition. In anything having to do with diplomatic initiatives with the Palestinians or military adventures, the left is in the right’s pocket. When the desire to maintain the Jewish demographic advantage, even by illegitimate means, is shared by most of the parliament, the coalition’s makeup has no real importance.

The shadow coalition revealed itself for one rare moment of truth when the Joint List proposed legislation to officially recognize the 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre by the Border Police. On that issue, too, there were talks between the coalition and the Arab-Jewish Hadash party aimed at agreeing on a bill to avoid embarrassing left-wing Meretz and the United Arab List, which ideologically speaking should support such a bill.

But wonder of wonders, the sides couldn’t agree. The bill was rejected after 93 of the 120 Knesset members voted against. Don’t worry, when it was clear it wouldn’t pass, the United Arab List and the Meretz Arabs received permission from the coalition to vote in favor, and the Meretz Jews received permission to absent themselves. All to avoid embarrassing them.

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