It happened in 2000. Having defeated Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud, Ehud Barak was prime minister. Yes, there was a time when this was so. Near the end of that year, United Torah Judaism submitted a bill raising child allowances to an insanely high 850 shekels ($250 at current exchange rates) per month per child, from the fifth child on. Likud announced that it would support the bill.
Israel's political crisis is far from over – and getting worse
I asked then-Likud lawmaker Ruby Rivlin how someone who calls himself a Zionist could support a law that would encourage anti-Zionist Haredim, as well as Arabs and Bedouins, to have even larger families and live on government handouts instead of working. Rivlin didn’t hesitate to answer: “It’s true that it’s a bad law, but without the Haredim, we can’t form a government, and I want to be in power.”
The same holds true now. Netanyahu and Likud are voting with one thing in mind only and that is to bring down the government. Even if the issue is something that perfectly aligns with their ideology, they will vote against it.
This is why they voted against extending the West Bank emergency regulations, without which, life in the occupied territories will become chaos. Miri Regev gave voice to the Likud position in the clearest possible way, during the faction discussions about the law to provide tuition for former combat soldiers: “We made a decision that we want to topple the government, so I don’t want to hear about stomach aches when it comes to rape or battered women or soldiers.” Yuval Steinitz went even further: “Tomorrow, it will be widows, orphans, the periphery, a million-and-one disabled, the sick, the elderly, Holocaust survivors, anything.”
So, yes, Likud is ready to burn down the country in order to return to power. But there is another side of the coin. Yes, if you want to replace the government, you have to oppose it in (almost) every situation and vote against (almost) every law it sponsors. But, when you gain power, you repair the damage you did and enact policies on the issues that really matter.
In contrast to Likud’s lust for power, leftist politicians suffer from an unquenchable suicidal impulse. They love to criticize everything, even voting against the government to which they belong. They feel more comfortable in the opposition, where they can be critical of the whole world without having to take any responsibility. Time and again, we’ve seen what experts they are at destroying their own leaders, so what’s it to them to destroy Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who’s not even “one of ours.”
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What exactly are Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi of Meretz and Mazen Ghanaim of the United Arab List thinking? That the government they joined, with a clear right-wing majority, would not seek to maintain the status quo in the West Bank? How will it ever again be possible to form an alliance with an Arab party, when all the members of UAL either abstain or vote against extending the emergency regulations? Don’t they care at all about the large budgetary allocations the Arab community has received or about the drive to reduce crime in the Arab community, which is actually succeeding? Do they expect to make greater gains in a government in which Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich serve as ministers, and Benzi Gopstein and Baruch Marzel are senior advisers?
The same questions ought to be put to Labor’s Merav Michaeli and Meretz’s Nitzan Horowitz, who never miss an opportunity to weaken the government, from opposing the budget to fighting the reforms to bring down the cost of living. Last week, members of both parties defied coalition discipline and caused it to lose a vote on the minimum wage. Labor MK Naama Lazimi said the issue “burns her soul.” Michael Biton of Kahol Lavan announced Monday he would no longer vote with the coalition. One wonders what they will say when the government falls, and Avi Maoz and Shlomo Karhi lead Israel into messianic-nationalist-Kahanist insanity.
Monday marked one year since the Bennett government was formed. It fixed the chaos Bibi left behind and has major achievements to boast in terms of the economy, security, social issues and diplomacy. But instead of lauding these achievements and unanimously voting in its favor, the left keeps lobbing stones at the government and enfeebling it. It could use a lesson from Rivlin in what power is all about.