Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar filibustered the plenum debate for about four hours in an attempt to delay the vote on two bills – one regarding Shas Chairman Aryeh Deri, the other Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich – and then the Knesset passed both bills with a 63 to 52 majority. Now both bills will go to committee for quick proposals and amendments, to be returned to the House in time for a second and third vote that would allow Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu to present his new government.
The Deri bill amends the criminal code to distinguish between imprisonment and probation when it comes to the convict entering a seven-year disgrace status preventing him from seeking public office. From now on––says the bill––you broke the law and went to prison – disgrace; you broke the same law but were only placed on probation – not disgraced. A Knesset-bestowed indulgence, if you will.
The Justice Minister said, among many other things: “I’m sorry that you chose the defamation bypass law as the first flagship law you bring to this Knesset. This legislation itself bears disgrace. You chose to waste the significant public credit you received in the elections on this despicable legislation. You unfortunately decided to follow a destructive and unrestrained path. You chose a quick and hasty debate to lower the moral bar required of members of the government for the purpose of qualifying a certain person for the position of minister.”
Of course, Sa’ar could have used some of his considerable time to discuss his government’s decision to hastily appoint a new IDF chief of staff, even though it is only a provisional caretaker government. He could also try to defend the hasty decision to sign away natural gas rights and national territory to Lebanon without as much as a Knesset confirmation because of, as PM Yair Lapid put it, the Knesset’s terrible misbehavior––by which he meant he didn’t have the support of the majority of MKs.
Funny note: about three hours after the Justice Minister began his filibuster speech, Lapid entered the plenum and told him he did not understand his explanation of why the Deri and Smotrich law was inappropriate and asked him to repeat his speech from the beginning.
The same bill was merged with a proposal to include independent ministers within government ministries, which would allow Smotrich to become a minister within the defense ministry, in charge of the civil administration in Judea and Samaria.
But Knesset motions are not passed based on their entertainment value, and one of the grimmer lawmakers on hand, MK Simcha Rothman summarized the win, saying: “The bill seeks to return the situation to where it was during the 23rd Knesset when there was an additional minister at the defense ministry. The Justice Ministry submitted a bill to the 24th Knesset to repeat the same arrangement. What we want to do is make the additional minister in the defense ministry a permanent position.”
Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi and Likud) served as Deputy Defense Minister and was responsible for pre-military training academies, hesder yeshivas, IDF Jewish conversion programs, legislation matching Israeli law with the IDF civil administration laws in Judea-Samaria, and building the infrastructure in Judea-Samaria. Should he receive his appointment, Smotrich will take over all these issues, but as a full minister.
All of which did not prevent former IDF chief of staff, MK Gadi Eisenkot (National Camp) from declaring: “The apparent decision to transfer responsibility to an additional minister for the civil administration is a decision that spells the weakening and fragmentation of the systems which causes concern and bodes ill. On the assumption that we all share the desire that the IDF will continue to operate effectively in Judea and Samaria and fulfill its mission, I call on the future government to avoid short-sighted political measures that subjugate the security of the State of Israel.”
Here’s the thing: most of us don’t want the IDF to continue its mission in Judea and Samaria. We want the IDF to concentrate on fighting Israel’s enemies, near and far, and leave the running of Judea and Samaria to the police and the border police. The IDF should not be the proxy government of Judea and Samaria, it’s a job that belongs to the Israeli government.
Altogether, the outcry from Israel’s leftist politicians, media outlets, and even academia, comes down to one complaint: why are you trying to do differently all the things we used to do our way?
Never mind almost every proposal of the right-wing parties has already been pushed forward by the left, including, most humorously, Yair Lapid’s repeated mantra that it makes no sense that secular high school students have never seen a page of the Talmud. He’s been saying this, using the exact same wording, since 2008, when he first entered politics. Now that United Torah Judaism wants Israel’s education ministry to add Talmud study to the secular school’s curriculum, Lapid is screaming about religious coercion.
It’s going to be an un-boring term, folks. I pray that the people I voted for, Smotrich, Itamar Ben Gvir, et al, will be endowed by the Creator of the Universe with wisdom, decisiveness, and most important – patience.