Source: Gush Shalom
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Source: Gush Shalom
On the agenda were three laws, each one worse than the other.
One was about "governance." Its main provision raises the "electoral threshold" -- i.e., the minimum an election list needs to enter the Knesset -- from 2% to 3.25%. The obvious intention is to expel the three lists which derive their votes from the Arab sector, and which hover around this level.
The second was about "sharing the load equally." Its declared aim is to compel thousands of orthodox youth to serve in the army, from which they are now exempted. In practice, the new law exempts them for another four years. Israelis call this "Israbluff."
The third is about peace, or the lack of. It says that any agreement that would give up territory which is at present controlled by Israel would need affirmation by a referendum. Until now, referendums have been unknown in Israel. This law would apply to all territorial changes, no matter how minor.
What is the connection between these three bills? None whatsoever, except that they are printed on paper. However, each of them is disliked by at least one of the six factions that support the government, which could make its adoption impossible.
In order to have them all passed, the government coalition has imposed on its members a draconian measure: they have to vote for all three of them together, one after the other.
This has never happened before. It is another symptom of the creeping right-wing crudity that is the hallmark of this Knesset.
IN SELF-DEFENCE, the opposition parties have done something that is also unprecedented in Israel: they have declared a boycott of the Knesset plenum. Not a single opposition member attended the plenum during the debate on these bills and the vote on them. They set up an "alternative plenum," where they held a lively debate.
The opposition consists of diverse elements, which do not ordinarily cooperate:
There are the left-wing Zionist parties: the Labor party and Meretz.
There are the two orthodox religious factions: the Torah Jewish faction (consisting of two separate parties) and the Oriental orthodox party, Shas.
And there are the three "Arab" parties: the nationalist Balad party, the moderate Islamic party and the Communist party, which has also a small Jewish component.
All these diverse political groupings have come together to express their outrage about the dictatorial measures of the Right. Their unprecedented boycott of the Knesset votes underlines the seriousness of the parliamentary crisis, though it did not prevent the laws being adopted.
The media excitement about the crisis hid, however, a much more serious aspect, one that may have a fundamental impact on the future of Israel.
ALL THREE Israeli TV networks devoted only a few minutes to what was happening in the Knesset plenum, and concentrated on the much more interesting happenings in the counter-plenum.
Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)