For a few days, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon held the title of the government’s chief spoiler, but he recently lost that honor to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who claimed (was he backed by the annual intelligence assessment?) that the Arab Peace Initiative was just spin.
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Danon started out modestly, focusing only on the Palestinians, but Ya’alon went big-time and included all Arabs. Then came Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who mentioned a friend with shrapnel in his backside as an analogy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He grabbed the title from Danon and Ya'alon. As my father used to say, “I’d laugh too if that idiot wasn’t one of mine.”
While the Danon-Ya’alon-Bennett trio is pushing to the limit the public’s right to get tired of what this trio thinks, a strong right-wing axis is forming in the Knesset. It consists of around 40 MKs, most of them from the coalition, who aim to prevent Israel from making territorial concessions and to thwart any peace deal with the Palestinians.
Although their leader has not yet been crowned, it seems the title must go to a tireless, soft-spoken legislator who makes the impression of a refined person who wouldn't hurt a fly. His name is Yariv Levin, who chairs both the coalition and the Likud faction in the Knesset. Levin has a clear agenda: Legislation that supports the settlements and the settlers should be advanced, while legislation inimical to the settlements and the settlers should be blocked. The basic principle is that the Arabs, the converts and the migrant workers will have to fend for themselves on the other side of the fence.
The Knesset's main job is to pass legislation. In Levin’s book, the chief guideline is “Talk less and just pass more legislation.” If the left-wingers in academia and the courts consider such actions apartheid-building measures, let them suffer. The Land of Israel is acquired only with great pain.
In the meantime, this approach is proving successful, and intervention from above rarely occurs. One of those rare occasions took place at the cabinet meeting this week, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed branding people responsible for anti-Arab “price tag” attacks members of a terrorist group (as sought by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and the Shin Bet security service). Instead, Netanyahu said they should be regarded as part of a banned organization. How pleasant it is to wake up to “Good morning, Abu Ghosh” – the site of a recent price tag attack.
In the previous Knesset, the moderate ministerial trio of Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan were sent home when Likud thinned its ranks. These officials were members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. In contrast, the trio’s replacement, the quartet of Limor Livnat, Yuval Steinitz, Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan, are as fluid as butter on a hot summer's day.
And a little child shall lead them. Just go to Levin’s website and you'll find the following headline: “The Ministerial Committee for Legislation has approved the bill proposed by the coalition chairman on prioritizing citizens who serve the state.” The law would favor such people in areas like jobs, rents and housing.
Levin is the mover and shaker in the legislative coalition. His next project, subordinating democracy to Judaism in a Basic Law on the Nation-State, will be debated by the Knesset in the next few days. In the previous Knesset, he headed a special committee that considered a mechanism for a referendum to authorize or rule out conceding territory “under Israeli sovereignty.”
In a lecture in an academic context (Ramat Gan College), Levin referred to the Supreme Court. “When a certain group of people tries to appropriate the ability to decide what is proportional and what is reasonable, what is enlightened and what is not, that's the essence of dictatorship,” he said. Levin frequently speaks out against the Supreme Court. The court is the enemy of the “settlers’ state.”
Last week, Levin and MK Orit Strock (Habayit Hayehudi) launched a Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset. Netanyahu, who has barred Likud ministers from taking part in the caucus, has left the field wide open for Levin and Strock. In the new weekend newspaper Sof Hashavua, Strock was quoted as saying, “Regarding significant steps and throughout my public career, I have and always will comply with the position of Rabbi Dov Lior" – a controversial right-winger.
With Levin and Strock in the heart of – and to the right of – the coalition, does anybody remember the battle to keep Likud extremist Moshe Feiglin out of the Knesset?