Israel's New Government Is Big on Bullying Tactics

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaking at the Knesset this week.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Our new government, the so-called coalition of change, showed on Monday recklessness and disregard for the rules of the game in line with the most savage approaches of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalitions. The new government placed its members in the most important Knesset committees and opposition members in the least important, in blatant disregard of the accepted formula for distributing positions based on party size.

When they were in the opposition, Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid and their political partners spoke loftily about the need for repair, for mending the rifts, for guarding Israeli democracy and assuring fair play. Ostensibly, these ideas and principles were the common denominator shared by right-wing settlers who support annexation and Tel Aviv techies who support a two-state solution. And they were what created the foundation of the extraordinary and eclectic political alliance and the change of government.

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But now, when the reins of power are in their hands, these principled people from the left and right are imitating the aggressiveness they previously opposed. The Knesset House Committee, which determines rules of procedure and operations, will comprise eight coalition lawmakers and only six from the opposition. Of the 16 members of the Finance Committee – among the most influential of all the permanent Knesset committees – only two will be from Likud, even though that party accounts for one-fourth of all legislators. The coalition has also retained control of the Economic Affairs Committee, which traditionally is held by the opposition.

The coalition’s generosity in allocating seats on committees with less cachet is another display of parliamentary bullying: The Science and Technology Committee will have eight members from the opposition and only three from the coalition, and six of the 11 members of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs will be from Likud. The distribution of committee chairs exemplifies the same greed: Only three – the State Control Committee, the Science and Technology Committee and the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality – will be headed by opposition legislators. This situation also implies that science and the status of women are at the bottom of the new government’s priorities.

The anger of the opposition and the decision to boycott the Knesset vote on the composition of the committees is understandable. The failure here has drawn the criticism of the parliament’s officials, including the legal adviser of the Knesset committees, Arbel Astrakhan. Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, who publicly criticized the coalition’s conduct, deserves praise for trying to reach a compromise between the sides.

That conduct is not how a government of change behaves. There is no place here for reverse discrimination. The only way to fix what Netanyahu and his partners broke is by acting with fairness and respecting the rules of the democratic game. The new government must set an example and not mimic the parliamentary bullying that its members sought to eliminate by replacing the old government.

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

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