Opinion

The Knesset Must Speak Up, Before the Public Takes the Law Into Its Own Hands

Zvi Bar'el
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
The Knesset in session, June 1, 2020.Credit: Adina Wollman/Knesset Spokesperson's Office
Zvi Bar'el

The sanctions the Israeli government is levying on its citizens are starting to be accepted without question. The chutzpah of Likud legislator Yifat Shasha-Biton, who didn’t approve closing swimming pools and gyms, is the exception.

LISTEN: Protests, pandemics and Netanyahu's day of reckoningCredit: Haaretz

Fortunately, the gatekeeper, coalition whip Miki Zohar, quickly pelted this nasty woman with stones. She deserved it. We’re in an emergency, danger looms over us, hundreds of thousands of unemployed are going hungry, and Ms. Shasha-Biton wants to exempt anyone who still has money for a gym or pool ticket. She rebelled rather than submit in solidarity to the sages who continue to conduct human experiments.

Shasha-Biton not only went against the prime minister’s decision, she upset the public’s adjusting to life in distress, to obeying orders, to sufficing with the crumbs the government provides without asking questions.

This is the threat that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fears, and rightly so. In Israel, there’s a long list that creates a submissive society oppressed by unprecedented tyranny: Netanyahu’s constitutional barricade to suppress the Knesset’s independence, the laws that let him be both legislator and executive, the “bullet in the envelope” he sends to hesitant legislators, the leadership role he took to battle the coronavirus – and control the movement, livelihoods and quality of life of Israelis while stifling the option of replacing him until his corruption trial is finally over.

And suddenly, there’s a rebellion that could fragment the plaster and seep directly into the foundations. Today it’s Shasha-Biton; who knows who it will be tomorrow. A Knesset that stands up to the executive is far more dangerous than the Supreme Court, more threatening than Hamas and Iran combined.

The demonstrations that broke out in recent weeks haven’t yet pierced the consciousness of the state’s leaders. They’re confident the economic plan they’re offering will only tighten Israelis’ dependence on the generosity of the government, which toys with their money as it pleases. That the people’s money belongs to them and payments to the National Insurance Institute are the fruit of their labor is something they’re asked to be thankful for.

That’s how the government tries to lull us to sleep. It believes it can buy the public’s trust and loyalty. Another few thousand for unemployment benefits, another bump in the budget deficit and guaranteed income will become an eternal insurance policy for the regime. And there’s no substitute for the government and its leader. The alternative vanished as if it had never existed, the opposition is ridiculous and now the people are just trying to survive.

The same thing happened with the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. They believed that their citizens had gotten used to their rule and were stunned by their power. And so the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Gulf states spent tons of money to buy quiet. When the oppressors paid up – the old method in which the public is desperately dependent on the regime – they managed to survive, and the public accepts this.

From left: Then Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, PM Netanyahu, Knesset whip Miki Zohar, Jerusalem, February 9, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

This is the track that Israel is marching on without raising an objection or engaging in reflection. Masks, social distancing and handwashing are a national duty, the symbol of patriotic loyalty. Demonstrations, protest tents and banners against the government and its leader are nothing less than terror attacks that demand a heavy hand and the involvement of the Shin Bet security service.

Yes, a time of emergency requires solidarity, mutual assistance, consideration, compassion and responsible leadership. But it doesn’t oblige solidarity and loyalty to a government that every day displays its powerlessness, stupidity and hostility toward the people.

Now comes the supreme test of the Knesset, which already has handed most of its authority to the supreme leader. This is the last moment before the public takes the law into its own hands.

Comments