Crazy coalition adds to PM Netanyahu’s woes – and ours!
By David E. Kaplan
When out-of-control wild fires are extinguished by the same crowd that started them, does beg the question:
“What is going on here?”
It’s crazy, but that is exactly what the Prime Minister of Israel has had to do in his first month of office – put out fires started by his own coalition partners!
With major threats and issues facing the country – from existential to economic – look what the PM has had to waste time on:
- There was first the Religious Zionist Party (RZP) proposed law – championed by the party’s National Missions Minister Orit Strock – to enable businesses and service providers to REFUSE to provide services on the basis of “religious belief” such as a doctor declining to give treatment to a LGBT person. Denounced as discriminatory by politicians from the opposition and members of the medical profession, it was left to the PM to administer the coup de grâce by releasing a written statement and video recording assuring that all persons – irrespective of sexual orientation – would be treated equally.
- Next, and literally ‘off the rails’, was United Torah Judaism party chairman, Yitzhak Goldknopf demanding that Transportation Minister, Miri Regev order a halt to construction and maintenance work of Israel’s railways on Saturdays. He claimed that the work is a violation of Shabbat (the Sabbath). Never mind the people who need or want to travel on Saturdays or the vital urgency to complete the national rail electrification project for the betterment of the nation’s economy. In the meantime – although unclear on details – the PM stepped in and an interim compromise was reached that construction was ‘back on track’.
- Then, stepping onto the proverbial pitch was Micky Zohar, the new Culture and Sport Minister who declared that his ministry would cease funding the previous government’s “Israeli Sabbath” initiative to provide free entrance to a large number of cultural institutions on Saturdays. The only free day in the week for many, it was left again for the Prime Minister to intervene and referee his sport’s minister and assure the public that “the project would continue.”
- Next for the PM to face off was with his ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (UTJ) coalition partner who sought to introduce a bill to separate men and women bathing at springs located in the country’s national parks. Drawing outrage from opposition lawmakers, calling the move a further step towards establishing “a religious state”, the natural spring issue was anything but ‘natural’, and the PM felt compelled to ‘spring’ into action assuring the country that there would be no change in policy.
With the PM having to neutralize the crazy urges of his coalition partners – assuring the nation as well as those observing anxiously from abroad that “I am the pilot; not the co-pilot” which is hardly an edorcement for democracy – is it hardly surprising that people across the country have taken to the streets in protest. These are not disgruntled voters who have not accepted the results of the past election. They accepted the election results because they accept DEMOCRACY. What they have NOT accepted is that the results would lead to a process that dismantles democracy.
One wakes up each day and wonder where or what cherished value or institution is this government going to attack next! Not satisfied with a full-on assault on the Supreme Court – the sole institution that provides an ultimate check and balance on a one-tier legislature (the Knesset) and the prime reason for the protests, next up in the crosshairs is a bill to restrict the striking rights of labour unions. Submitted by far-right Religious Zionism party member, Simcha Rothman, who has been a key player leading the government’s efforts to significantly restrict the power of the High Court of Justice, this bill would prevent the Histadrut – the country’s largest trade union – from joining protests against judicial overhaul. Super serpentine is Rothman. Because the bill is so designed to strip protections from a labor union that strikes in solidarity with a cause that does not directly impact their line of work, this would prevent the national Histadrut labor federation from joining the nationwide protests against the government’s judicial overhaul plan.
Accepting none of this is Histadrut chairman Arnon Bar-David who issued a statement asserting that the bill would not pass.
“Exercising the right to strike is one of the main tools to protect economically vulnerable populations, and I will not allow any party to harm union workers.” Also blasting Rothman’s bill is his immediate predecessor in the Constitution Law and Justice Committee, Labour MK Gilad Kariv, who claimed it is “only phase one of a long-term plan” to place the conservative, right-wing Kohelet Forum think tank in control of the country, “where every man is for himself.”
“Every man for himself” is contrary to the ethos of the idea of Israel. As each Saturday night mass protests attests, with the soul of the country at stake, people are relying on the soles of their feet to make their message heard.
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