Where's Livni When You Need Her?

A series of anti-democratic bills is about to become law and perhaps the only person who could stop them refuses to speak up.

Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky
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Sefi Rachlevsky
Sefi Rachlevsky

Granted, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is known as someone who doesn’t exactly excel in exercising political muscle. But even her weakness ought to have a limit, and today ought to be Livni’s day.

The fundamental fact is that without Livni’s Hatnuah party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t have a government. The right didn’t win a governing majority in the last election; Livni is the safety pin holding the regime together – both toward the outside world and, mathematically, on the domestic front. Without Livni, Netanyahu’s coalition with Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid would have 62 Knesset members, while a coalition with Bennett and the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) would have 61. Either would survive, perhaps, for another few months – and probably not even that long.

Livni has veto power over every law of a constitutional nature. Yet now, three anti-constitutional laws are set to pass thanks to Livni and her colleagues. These laws ride roughshod over every one of their approximately 200,000 voters. And here are their names: the discriminatory and anti-constitutional law to grant a sweeping exemption from army service to Haredim; the law to permanently thwart a peace agreement; and the law to trample over the rights of Arab citizens of the “Jewish state.”

The latter two laws also invite a blow-up of what is called the diplomatic “process,” as well as an intensification of boycotts against Israel. And both, especially the law to trample the rights of Arab citizens, clarify the precise nature of the “Jewish state” that Netanyahu’s regime is imposing on us via Livni. Perhaps a lone Arab party will survive the raising of the electoral threshold. But if Arabs don’t enjoy the fundamental right to have a multiplicity of parties, Israel, thanks to Livni, will become a democracy for Jews only – or in other words, a non-democracy.

Livni is serving as a fig leaf for Netanyahu at a time when he is riding roughshod over democracy. With her help, he is setting new records for settlement construction; he’s doing everything possible, as Livni well knows, to prevent a peace agreement; and he’s wasting this regional and global window of opportunity on convincing Israelis – who didn’t give the right a majority – that an agreement is impossible.

Even worse, however, Livni is the justice minister. She has built an image for herself as “Mrs. Clean.” And who is she allowing to spearhead this “democratic” legislation? Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who was convicted of assaulting children and incites in favor of anti-democratic “governability” and pushing Arabs out of the “Jewish state.”

Never have “equality and the rule of law” known days as dark as they have under Livni. The state prosecutor and the attorney general – or perhaps we should say family attorney – who serve under her are doing everything possible to exempt senior officials from the law. Thus they helped Lieberman, who has turned into Livni’s patron; he wasn’t put on trial in a case in which, according to the prosecutor in charge of it, one witness disappeared and another apparently committed suicide with two bullets to the brain. And, for all the obvious differences, that’s how they’re helping Ehud Olmert now.

Olmert is a citizen, but he is first and foremost a former prime minister. Thus the fact that the state prosecutor is preventing Olmert’s confidante from telling her detailed truth about him is impossible to grasp. Yet Shai Nitzan did the same thing in the past, when he showed contempt for the victims of former President Moshe Katsav’s sexual assaults by describing them to the Supreme Court as “dubious and not credible,” and preferred the technical over the substantive for the sake of a lying plea bargain with Katsav. Now, another witness is being trampled on for the sake of a senior official, and Livni, the person in charge, is keeping mum.

But it gets even worse – because Olmert is a former official. Netanyahu is a sitting prime minister. And right now, in full public view, this prime minister is being extorted: His maintenance supervisor is demanding 200,000 shekels ($58,000); otherwise, he’ll reveal the truth about the premier. Netanyahu’s attorneys are willing to give him 50,000 shekels, but threaten that if he divulges Netanyahu’s doings, he’ll face criminal charges. And the prosecution? And Netanyahu’s attorney general cum family attorney? And the Justice Ministry? And the justice minister? Complete silence.

In a state with even a modicum of the rule of law, the attorney general would have had the maintenance supervisor summoned immediately and informed that he was under investigation for extorting the prime minister, but if he has incriminating material on the head of government, now is the time to talk. A prosecution that fails to do this is trampling Israeli law into the dust. And the justice minister?

Today ought to be the big day for Livni and her colleagues. But if this sextet that’s keeping Netanyahu in power doesn’t act now, the trampling of democracy, peace and the law – for which there is no majority without them – will be on their heads.

Tzipi Livni in 2009.Credit: Reuters

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