Opinion |

Time for Opposition to Call It Quits

Every time such a bill reaches the Knesset, the opposition should walk out during the vote. Sometimes such a boycott projects power.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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An Israeli youth stands on an observation point overlooking the Amona outpost, November 16, 2016.
An Israeli youth stands on an observation point overlooking the Amona outpost, November 16, 2016. Credit: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

The contentious document sometimes called the “Formalization Bill” is probably Israel’s worst bill ever. It’s a bill designed to legitimize lawbreaking. It’s a bill that grants the state a stamp of approval for theft.

Only a completely deranged legislature would deign to discuss such a bill, which nevertheless has a polite name worthy of a kid in the Bnei Akiva youth group. In fact, this bill should have been labeled the Highway Robbery Bill. These aren’t my words – they were uttered by that extreme leftist, Likud’s Benny Begin.

This bill flies in the face of the most basic universal morality and the spirit of Judaism (“Thou shalt not steal”). It conflicts with Jewish jurisprudence and international law. It’s also constitutionally unfeasible – the Knesset isn’t the sovereign in the occupied territories and has no authority to make laws for these areas unless they are officially annexed to Israel.

The settlers’ sanctimonious arguments – you don’t correct one mistake by making another – are embarrassing. This is like arguing that there’s no point in punishing a criminal because the criminal's suffering will only compound the victim's suffering.

All this should be clear to the Knesset members, including those in the governing coalition such as center-right leader Moshe Kahlon. If in their ignorance they don’t know these facts, there are people who can explain it all slowly.

It’s not feelings of shame that they lost on their way to Jerusalem – they lost those long ago. They’ve lost the last vestiges of political courage and moral backbone. The settlers’ terror has befallen them, both voters and party members, both in Habayit Hayehudi and Likud.

These two parties should unite – for a long time there has been no difference between them. Twenty-five out of 30 Likud MKs were herded into signing a declaration of support for this abomination, including the Knesset speaker, cabinet members, jurists and academics.

Amona’s prefab homes are but a speck in the annals of the occupation, but the bill proposing the outposts’ legalization is a seminal moment in the collapse of Israeli jurisprudence. At such a critical juncture a real opposition should say it doesn’t want to play anymore – not like an overgrown child but like a responsible adult. It should stop playing into the hands of the settlers and their government.

It should stop dancing to the scapegoat-searching music that tries to undermine the “leftist organizations” and “the rule of the High Court of Justice,” which allegedly refuse to accept the decision of the majority “as befits a democracy.” The opposition should refuse to fulfill its usual role of shouting matches at the Knesset, lofty speeches against harming the judiciary and emergency court petitions.

The very discussion of a bill that regulates lawbreaking is a sad joke. The very discussion of a bill that permits theft is illegitimate. So every time such a bill reaches the legislature, the opposition should opt for a thundering silence by walking out during the vote. Leave the sorting out of this abomination to coalition members and their party discipline.

Sometimes restraint is power. Sometimes turning away or even boycotting a vote projects power. This restraint should be carried further – bite your tongue and don’t submit petitions to the High Court of Justice. Stop running like a child to an adult.

Anyone who really wants to protect the courts should stop sacrificing them to the likes of Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich. A government was chosen in Israel? Let it face the consequences of its actions. The democratic camp’s saving of time and energy by suspending its opposition can be devoted to a much more vital task – a courageous rethinking of its basic precepts.

It’s time to stop blathering about a “diplomatic process” and “the rule of law.” Do you want to end the occupation? Do you want peace? Coexistence? A democratic state with equal rights for all its citizens? An exemplary society with a social-democratic economy?

The road there passes through a uniting of forces and an overcoming of infighting, not via a battle against a bill that enables the violation of the law. The thievery bill should be left to the thieves.

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