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.

Doctor No. Contrary to the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath, Religious Zionism lawmaker Orit Strock, proposes bill permitting doctors to refuse treatment to patients on religious grounds. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • 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’.
Political Trainwreck. Despite the warning of service delays if maintenance is pushed to weekdays, Haredi Housing and Construction Minister, Yitzhak Goldknopf nevertheless demanded end to Shabbat train work. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
  • 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.”
Culture Minister gets Bad Review. The decision of Israel’s new culture minister Miki Zohar to cuts funding for events on Shabbat that included free entry to historic sites and subsidies for theatre performances was met with instant opposition. (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
  • 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.
Coalition to Collision. Antagonising opposition lawmakers was a coalition partner’s bill to gender-segregate natural springs like Ein Lavan Spring in the Jerusalem Mountains. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

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.

Mischief Makers. Religious Zionism party member, Simcha Rothman (l), who has been a key supporter of Justice Minister Yariv Levin (r) to significantly restrict the power of the High Court of Justice, has his sights now set to prevent the Histadrut  – the country’s largest trade union – from joining protests against judicial overhaul. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.”

Quo Vadis. The country braces for “what’s next”  from the Prime Minister (center) and his extreme right-wing coalition partners set on eroding the country’s democratic ethos. (Amir Cohen/Pool via AP)

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.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

2 thoughts on “PUTTING OUT FIRES

  1. I agree with most of what’s written about some crazy ideas being blocked but carefully considered judicial reform is essential unless you want judges who think they are the rule of law instead of judges implementing the rule of law

  2. When judges rule against a convicted criminal and repeat offender and set the boundaries of what he can do they are maintaining the rule of law. When dealing with a prime minister facing serious charges of corruption and setting boundaries for him they are protecting the rule of law.
    Throughout history criminals have had complaints about judges; the criminal elements in our political class are not different,

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