Editorial |

The Public, Remember Them?

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem November 13, 2017
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem November 13, 2017Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

Since the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the Knesset has been conducting a marathon debate prior to a final vote on the so-called Recommendations Bill. The bill’s original purpose was to prevent police from giving the prosecution their recommendations on whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and thereby also to prevent the public from knowing what police had concluded after more than a year of investigating. But that naturally sparked criticism and opposition, and in response, the bill was altered.

The current version would not apply to investigations opened before the law enters into force. These include the two investigations of Netanyahu known as Case 1000 and Case 2000, as well as the investigation of MK David Bitan, the former coalition whip. Thus MK Benny Begin, who vehemently opposed the original bill, has since said, “The main problem has been removed from it. The version that will be voted on in second and third readings isn’t retroactive, and therefore, it isn’t personal.”

But if the sting has been drawn from the bill, why is the coalition continuing to commit suicide over it? And if the bill is no longer retroactive and personal, why does it continue to elicit such fierce objections from the opposition, which seems to have come back to life and is now demonstrating exceptional parliamentary determination? It’s hard to avoid the feeling that though the current version “doesn’t effectively change the existing situation,” as Begin said – adding that consequently, “one could ask whether the law is needed” – the battle over it is no longer related to its content.

In truth, it was never possible to hold a substantive discussion of the bill – whose amended version is likewise egregious since it weakens the police and strengthens public figures at the public’s expense – because it was clear to everyone that it wasn’t driven by concern for the public welfare, but by concern for Netanyahu’s welfare. By attempting to enact this law, the Netanyahu government has hit a new low and demonstrated contempt for the public and the Knesset.

Therefore, not only has the new version not blunted the political battle, it has actually intensified it. The governing coalition hasn’t given up on the bill even though it’s superfluous, and the opposition opposes it because it symbolizes everything that’s corrupt about the fourth Netanyahu government. The result is a political battle that has nothing to do with the bill itself.

The public can only wonder whether this government has ever invested similar energy in solving the state’s burning problems. When was the last time Knesset members deprived themselves of sleep to advance solutions to the conflict with our neighbors; heal internal schisms, whether between Jews and Arabs or between Jews and Jews; narrow the gaps between the center and the periphery; or lower housing prices, raise the minimum wage, the salaries of teachers, doctors and social workers, and defend other such goals?

It’s hard to avoid the impression that Netanyahu has dragged not just the government, but the entire Knesset, into a preoccupation with his personal affairs and his attempts to evade the law by means of legislation. And all this comes at the expense of the public’s time, resources and, above all, energy.

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

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