Haaretz Editorial |

Netanyahu’s Vendetta Against Rivlin

Even if he has not said so explicitly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to prevent a man who has placed him in a less than flattering light from serving another term as Knesset speaker.

Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz Editorial

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s worldview states that ‘the majority can do anything, that the leader can demand whatever he wishes of those who entered the Knesset because of him and he can force his opinion on them.’ That is something that can greatly harm democracy and lower the Knesset’s standing to rock bottom.”

So lamented outgoing Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin in an interview with the Ma’ariv newspaper three years ago. That wasn’t the first or only time that Rivlin, who is on the extreme right wing of Likud, has admonished Netanyahu over his undemocratic approach. Now it appears that the time has come for settling scores. And even if he has not said so explicitly, Netanyahu intends to prevent a man who has placed him in a less than flattering light from serving another term as Knesset speaker.

Rivlin, who when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict takes an orthodox Likud line, understands the real nature of democracy well, unlike Netanyahu. In his official style, which is based on a rare political integrity, Rivlin has managed, despite his extreme views, to protect the Knesset as an arena for competing ideas representing all of the members of the legislature. He opposed bills introduced by his party colleagues that were designed to cause harm to Israel’s Arab minority because he believed that the legislation would harm democracy. And in his view, the prime minister should not be treated to a special, exalted standing. Rivlin therefore found no reason to accede to Netanyahu and prevent Knesset members from catcalls when the prime minister was speaking to parliament.

“Woe is to the Jewish democratic state that turns freedom of expression into a civil offense, and woe is to Knesset members who hoped to produce good grapes, but instead produced rotten fruit, to paraphrase the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “ Rivlin wrote in Haaretz. His comments related to the unfortunate Boycott Law that the Knesset had passed. At the same time, Rivlin made it clear that he was not a prisoner to the will of his party, particularly when it was producing a distorted version of democracy.

In his own special way, Rivlin knew how to capture the hearts of the members of parliament and of the public at large, but in the process he earned Netanyahu’s hostility and he is apparently paying the price. But it is not only Rivlin who is paying the price. The Knesset has become a platform for extreme views and the Israeli public needs Rivlin.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Reuven Rivlin, right, in 2012. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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