Of Whales and Members of Knesset

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The real reason behind Israel's elections: The Knesset dispersed itself because one man, the prime minister, finds himself in a situation in which his fate depends on the courts.

Flash 90

A bizarre phenomenon of nature, known as “beaching,” occurs from time to time when large pods of cetaceans—whales or dolphins—strand themselves on dry land and effectively commit suicide. Perhaps envious of whales, our Knesset members “beached” themselves when they voted to move up their expiration date even before a third of their term had passed. By this act of suicide, the Knesset pushed us into a fourth general election in the space of two years. So, what is going on here?

During the past year, our personal and national lives have been held captive by the coronavirus pandemic. Our younger generation has missed a full year of school, a huge blow which defies quantification. Hundreds of thousands of families are in dire financial straits; some will find it hard to recover anytime in the foreseeable future. Many have lost their businesses – the source of both their livelihood and their dignity. The elderly are living under a constant threat to their lives and in with quarantine and loneliness chipping away at their wellbeing. The long line of those who have succumbed, and the harm done to those who have recovered appear to be real threats for the long term. And as for human emotion and warmth—we have been forbidden to display any signs of it; to touch, to hug, even to just be close.

The current Knesset coalition was formed in order to tackle with a mammoth challenge, whose likes we have never experienced. Election pledges were violated, ideological lines crossed, strange alliances forged, and legislative monstrosities passed, because many understood that the war against the pandemic sanctified any and all measures, however unholy. So, what change in the perception of reality led to the dissolution of the Knesset yesterday? Aren’t the virus and its threat still with us in full force?

And from the Knesset to the Government. The State Budget includes items that could make it possible to focus, and wage a more effective war against the coronavirus. The budget would make it possible to expand cast more extensive social safety nets that are absolutely essential e during the crisis, to institute the reforms needed to deal with the ballooning national debt, to adapt the economy and workforce to the post-pandemic world, make the healthcare system more efficient, and help the economy recover its lost vitality. When the Government refuses to pass the budget, it is in fact shirking its responsibility to serve the country’s citizens in times of crisis. Again we ask-- why?!

All who are willing to look the situation in the eye, whatever their political preferences and ideological and social background, must acknowledge that behind all the background noise and spins, as in the past, now too—there is one—and only one—source of the crisis: the legal system's role in our lives. Flying in the face of all logic, Israel is being dragged into another election, because one segment of the population is bent on generating a revolution in the judicial system, and another segment-- vigorously opposes such changes . At the height of a catastrophe of epic proportions which has shaken up the daily lives of all Israelis, our elected representatives decided not to play by the rules, moved instead by their obsessive focus on appointments to senior positions in the judicial and law-enforcement system. This is what the Prime Minister and the Alternate Prime Minister were negotiating about, and that is why the coalition collapsed. 

An outside observer, unfamiliar with the circumstances, would be astonished. How could two branches of government—the executive and the legislative —that are supposed to be at the forefront of the civic battle against the pandemic, deal instead with taking apart and reassembling the third branch, the judiciary, instead of doing their job? There is no doubt that with regard to the issue itself, finding the appropriate balance between the legal and the political in our national life is important; and, from a democratic perspective, even crucial. Still, the argument about these matters has been going on for at least two decades; there seems to be no special urgency to focus on it precisely now.

But anyone living here in Israel knows the answer: The Knesset committed suicide because one man, the Prime Minister, finds himself, to our misfortune, in a situation in which his fate depends on the courts. Let us be precise: Even those who believe that the Prime Minister is innocent of the charges against him, must ask themselves whether dissolving the Knesset and preventing the Government from acting on the basis of an appropriate State Budget, only because the ruling party wants to settle scores with the judicial system-- or even to crush it in order to protect the party leader-- is the right thing to do.

Scientists believe that the mass suicide by whales is linked to the pod’s internal dynamics. When the leader is in distress, loses its sense of direction and swims towards the shore, the entire pod swims after it, even if this leads all of them to their death. Is the analogy to the Knesset’s behavior valid?

The article was published in the Jerusalem Post.


The article was published in the Jerusalem Post.