Invisible Kahol Lavan

New Knesset members from Kahol Lavan attend orientation, Jerusalem, April 29, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

The 21st Knesset is due to be sworn in on Tuesday. At an orientation day held for the 49 new MKs yesterday, Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz, his party leadership colleague Gabi Ashkenazi and Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay, were conspicuously absent. Their absence may be a trivial matter, but it dovetails with the thunderous silence that has enveloped the opposition since the election three weeks ago.

The incoming opposition has all the conditions necessary to “make the government’s life miserable,” as one of its leaders, Yair Lapid, has promised. The 35 MKs from Kahol Lavan, if they cooperate with the rest of the opposition, could be an effective fighting opposition if they choose to be. But their struggle must consist of more than just parliamentary activism. The opposition must mobilize public opinion against the right’s political agenda and provide an alternative. To do this, it must explain to the public why the agenda the right is pursuing is problematic.

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The opposition must connect the dots for the public by showing how every action the government undertakes and every law it passes is part of a larger picture. If Israel abandons the idea of separating from the Palestinians who are living under its control in the territories, and plans to gradually annex those lands without offering the Palestinians true partnership in a single democratic state, it must pass laws to ensure Jewish superiority in Israel and the territories it annexes. To pave the way toward this, it had to remove equality as a seminal value as it was enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. That’s exactly what the government did through the nation-state law.

Because this is an anti-democratic process, which rejects political equality and the ability in principle for any minority to become a majority, the nation-state law isn’t enough. Israel will also have to get rid of two Basic Laws that guarantee fundamental human rights in the state – the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, and the Basic Law on the Freedom of Occupation. And since Israel is consciously acting against the values of equality and freedom, it also has to weaken the Supreme Court, whose job, among other things, is to ensure that the government remains loyal to its founding principles and its democratic character by voiding unconstitutional legislation.

This march along an antidemocratic road is bringing Israel closer to undemocratic states and is distancing it from countries that champion liberal values and from a large part of Diaspora Jewry.

In the short time that has passed since the election, one doesn’t get the impression that the opposition plans to conduct a political battle of the type required for these troubled times on the eve of the formation of a new government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, which is determined to continue barreling down the right-wing slope while removing all the checks and balances meant to protect democracy and individual freedom.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.