Opinion |

Chametz Wasn’t the Reason Israeli Coalition Whip Quit

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, last week.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, last week.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

If you ask Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz now, he’d promise to eat nothing but matzah and maror for the whole week of Pesach and even wear a shtreimel during the seder, if only Idit Silman returns to the coalition.

He surely regrets his letter to hospital directors, asking that they let visitors bring in chametz during the holiday, in compliance with the High Court of Justice ruling. He felt like a hero when he wrote it, but today? In politics, it’s better to be smart than right. If you’re in the opposition, you can’t permit surrogacy for gay men or ban “conversion therapy.” So what’s more important?

After all, hospitals have to obey the ruling in any event, but Horowitz wanted to score points with his voters. Now he’s shortened the government’s lifespan. At any given moment, a politician must consider what trivial thing he’s willing to give up in order to get what matters. For Horowitz, what matters is keeping Benjamin Netanyahu in the opposition and preserving the government; the trivial is the minutiae of chametz in hospitals.

And don’t say chametz wasn’t the reason Silman left. It was the last straw. After all, the left has been poking its partners in the eye since the coalition was formed. It doesn’t quite understand that it’s a minority in the coalition, with just 13 Knesset seats. Throughout the past 10 months, left-wing purists have heaped abuse on the government, enumerating its failings whenever they have a microphone. They acted like an opposition. They didn’t report to the TV studios to defend Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Instead, they criticized and weakened him. They also trashed every plan submitted by Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, including one to lower living costs – total insanity. Had Netanyahu, as premier, proposed the same plan, every right-wing politician would have mounted the media barricades in its defense.

The right feels that it’s been chosen to rule, and the opposition is just a momentary mishap. From the moment the right has fought it tooth and bail. Likud MKs slander Bennett daily in the media. Right-wing activists flood social media with curses, and in synagogue congregants attack and humiliate religious MKs in the coalition. For months they persecuted, verbally abused (“wretched traitor”) and threatened Silman. They also pitched a noisy “protest tent” outside the home of fellow Yamina MK, Nir Orbach, who finally broke Thursday and gave Bennett an ultimatum – resume building in the settlements or I’ll quit.

The left, in contrast, likes to criticize the entire world, including the government to which it belongs. It has a well-developed suicidal impulse and expertise in destroying its own leaders.

The bottom line is that my heart breaks at the sight of the accomplishments of this revolutionary government, which presumably is not long for this world. For the first time in history, there’s an independent Arab party in the coalition. For the first time, there’s a serious plan to fight crime in Arab communities. For the first time, there are reforms of the kashrut system, the religious conversion system and the religious councils.

In the legal sphere, a professional attorney general has been appointed and the hateful attacks on the justice system have ended. The defense establishment has received billions of shekels in added funds for preparations against Iran. And a regional alliance was formed at the Negev Summit.

Relations with Egypt, Jordan and U.S. President Joe Biden have been rehabilitated. A two-year state budget with important reforms the likes of which we haven’t seen in 12 years was passed, and led to rapid growth and low unemployment. There are even state commissions of inquiry into the fatal stampede at Mount Meron and corruption in Israel’s procurement of submarines.

The output has been enormous, truly exceptional. So isn’t it a pity, Horowitz?

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