Opinion |

A National Unity Government Will Serve No Purpose

Zehava Galon
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A Likud party election campaign billboard depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu above a billboard depicting Kachol Lavan leader Benny Gantz. Petah Tikva, Israel April 7, 2019
A Likud party election campaign billboard depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu above a billboard depicting Kachol Lavan leader Benny Gantz. Petah Tikva, Israel April 7, 2019Credit: \ NIR ELIAS/ REUTERS
Zehava Galon

One can understand the longing of several pundits and politicians for a national unity government. The former are afraid of the implications of a narrow right-wing government, which will make its predecessor pale by comparison; the latter are afraid of the implications of such a government for their political future. But a national unity government won't save the rule of law nor the careers of those who are aiming to form such a government.

The desperate crawl towards a coalition, in the name of national responsibility of course, is not only terrible defeatism on the part of left-wingers. National responsibility doesn't mean letting a lunatic drive while you sit next to him – because if you don't, who knows what he'll do? The lunatic will drive in any case, you'll only be the one who shouts from the window: "It's all right, he has a license."

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The days when a national unity government deserved serious consideration have long since passed. It's impossible to talk about treason [on the part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] in the submarines affair - which the leaders of the Kahol Lavan party suddenly abandoned with the demise of their campaign - and then to sit next to the person whose investigation you demanded.

There were some who abandoned their parties and voted Kahol Lavan because the party promised to replace Netanyahu. In a properly run campaign, even a party whose candidates included plastic sandals and Turkish coffee would have achieved such a result.

Left-wing politician Shulamit Aloni once said: "Only worms influence from within," and since then there have already been several governments and worms that didn't change a thing. Netanyahu called an election in order to avoid imprisonment; no party will change that from inside the coalition.

If he wants Kahol Lavan, it will be only so that the party can provide a warm cloak of public consensus for his moves. Kahol Lavan may not want to function as an opposition, they certainly aren't ready for that, but they will have to function as an opposition, and they had better excel in the role.

At the same time, there are limits even to the ability of a parliamentary opposition. It can embarrass a government that abides by some norms, but not someone who has removed any ethical yoke from himself.

Netanyahu declared that he intends to initiate significant changes in the judicial system; he hopes that it will be at his mercy before he is at its mercy. The talk about annexations sounds more serious than ever, as does the talk about transferring the Bedouin from Khan al-Ahmar.

When that is the situation, parliamentary questions and participation on Knesset committees means a pretence of normalcy in a country that is being dragged towards madness. Once every few days someone pulls out from the internet an old black and white photo of a crowd greeting Hitler with the Hitler salute, and in the middle there is one man whose arms are crossed. "Be this guy," says the caption: "Refuse."

That man was probably August Landmesser, a German worker who had committed the terrible crime of a relationship with a Jewish woman. Israel is marching confidently down a dark path, and that must be stopped. It was done by the doctors who refused to force feed prisoners on a hunger strike - they set limits to a government that lacked limits, and succeeded.

In the face of a government that tailors basic laws to the measurements of its leaders, in the face of someone accused of bribery who plans to undermine the independence of the judicial system, in the face of the loud hallucinations on the right about annexation and turning us into an apartheid state - legal experts, educators, members of the military and the police force, academics and politicians, past and present, must arise and wave a black flag. We have power that we aren't using. There are things that are stopped not by speaking in the parliament. Be Landmesser. Refuse.

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