On Sunday the “Netanyahu bloc” was defeated in the vote on the composition of the Knesset Arrangements Committee. This is the key committee, the cornerstone, that is responsible for establishing all the other Knesset committees. Until after the formation of a coalition that will establish permanent committees, the arrangements committee sets up temporary committees, which carry out the Knesset’s regular functions and oversee the government.
But in accordance with the approach that has guided Likud under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent years – and which holds that no governmental power is designed to serve the public, only to serve a political interest – Arrangements Committee chairman Miki Zohar, who has realized that there is a solid majority against his proposal to appoint temporary deputies to the Knesset speaker, has refused to allow votes that are unacceptable to him to go forward, or to appoint temporary committees. In effect the Arrangements Committee does not convene, and the Knesset is paralyzed.
Israel’s Iran-baiting could backfire on Bibi: Listen to Yossi Melman
This is very similar to the refusal of former Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein a year ago to enable the convening of the full Knesset, on the excuse of the coronavirus restrictions, and his attempts to evade a vote to choose a chairman, although there was a clear majority demanding that.
Now, too, the Arrangements Committee has the legal authority to appoint committees that are crucial for maintaining the Knesset’s supervisory authority, but Zohar, by order of his master Netanyahu, is paralyzing the committee as if it were a private tool that belongs to him and his boss. His refusal to activate the committee is a deviation from his authority, or at least an extremely unreasonable act. It’s a blow to the will of the political majority in the Knesset, which is directly represented on the committee.
The establishment of an Arrangements Committee is always critical, and especial now. We may recall that Israel does not have a functioning government: The government does not convene, not all the ministries have ministers, there are no ministerial committees, and even the cabinet rarely meets. In other words, there are no collective decision-making bodies and no oversight whatsoever of government activity.
Paralyzing the Knesset now is a cynical, anti-democratic act. In addition, despite the attempt to claim that the coronavirus is “behind us,” many of the COVID-19 regulations still exist. There must be a committee established according to the coronavirus law that will supervise, cancel regulations when necessary or approve their extension. The same is true regarding a Finance Committee to handle the “economic coronavirus,” which is a genuine necessity.
Where are the gatekeepers? Why are the Knesset legal adviser and the attorney general remaining silent? We must not accept the continued seizure of democratic institutions as hostages to elected officials who are entrenching themselves in their jobs, and refusing to let the majority carry out its political will. Even if it’s only for a limited time – until the transfer 12 days from now of the mandate to form a coalition – this is a mortal blow to the fabric of the democratic life of the Knesset.