The opposition led by ex-general Benny Gantz, majority in the Parliament, reacts furiously to the closure of the Knesset ordered by its president, Yuli Edelstein, denouncing a maneuver aimed at removing the Prime Minister from any legislative control.
Among his admirers as well as his opponents, there is a point on which Benjamin Netanyahu is unanimous: his instinct for survival is unequaled, this political conatus which allowed him to beat all records of longevity at the head of the Hebrew State . Faced with the coronavirus, this is perhaps what gave the Israeli Prime Minister a little head start. Long before most western countries, Israel has taken drastic measures, which seem to have limited the number of cases of Covid-19 so far – no deaths have been reported to date, although forecasts are clouding hourly.
But it is this same talent for self-preservation that is pushing the Prime Minister (technically interim for almost a year and three unsuccessful elections) to see an opportunity in the global health crisis. That of barricading himself at the head of state by blowing up the mechanisms of control of the executive, while the opposition led by ex-general Benny Gantz, instructed by the president to form a new government, demands the implementation of the alternation leaving the ballot box on March 2.
In these times of epidemic, what everyone calls “Bibi” is omnipresent, in the shade as in the light. Almost every evening, he appears on television, explaining to the Israelis how to blow their nose or preparing them for “Thousands of deaths to come”, between two additional screw turns in the fight against the coronavirus. Then, generally in the middle of the night, the decrees fall, from his hand or from his followers of Likud in the ministries, blurring the lines between personal interest and common good.
The opposition shouts at the velvet coup d’etat
There was first the closing of the courts and the postponement of his trial until May, then the generalized electronic surveillance of the population (officially to track the carriers of the virus and potential contaminated) established without parliamentary control, and finally the suspension of the Knesset, taking as pretext “The sacred union desired by the people” and the difficulty of meeting in plenary, due to the distancing measures.
More concretely, the shutdown of the assembly ordered on Wednesday by its president, the likudnik Yuli Edelstein, serves above all to prevent the vote designating his successor. A refusal to give up his seat, contrary to custom, when the opposition intends to replace him with a pro-Gantz deputy, in order to take control of the agenda and the parliamentary committees. Result, the opposition, now majority despite its motley character, is deprived of a right of oversight over the actions of Netanyahu and calls out to the coup d’etat de velours.
Never in Israel, which has long prided itself on being “The only democracy in the Middle East”, the Knesset had not been put to sleep. Not even in wartime, reports the press almost in unison. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, a member of Likud like Netanyahu, called Edelstein to implore him to get parliament out of the “paralysis” : “We must not let this crisis, no matter how serious, undermine our democratic system.”
“The coronavirus killed democracy”
In a video message, Yaïr Lapid, number 2 of Benny Gantz’s Bleu-Blanc party, summarized the situation: “There is no longer any judicial or legislative power. Only an unelected government led by the loser of the election. You can call it by many names, but it’s not a democracy. “
Sentiment relayed by the great feathers of the country, starting with planetary success futurist Yuval Noah Harari, who on Twitter talks about Israel as the first “Coronavirus dictatorship” : “The coronavirus has killed democracy. Bibi lost the election, closed the Knesset, ordered citizens to stay at home and imposed whatever emergency measure he wanted. It’s called dictatorship. “ Featured columnist Ben Caspit, author of a biography of Netanyahu, writes: “The coronavirus will eventually pass. But after having buried our dead, it will remain to organize the funeral rites for our democracy. ” The Institute for Israeli Democracy, the most balanced think tank, spoke to him about “Unacceptable and flagrant disregard for basic rules of democracy”.
Faced with criticism, Netanyahu in turn castigates an attempted coup: “As I wage the war against the coronavirus to save the lives of our fellow citizens, [les députés d’opposition] think only of plotting to overthrow the Prime Minister. “
It is true that the anti-Netanyahu front is not without ulterior motives. The ultranationalist Avigdor Liberman, the damned ex-soul of “Bibi” converted to Brutus, has tabled three tailor-made bills to dislodge the Prime Minister on charges of corruption. These texts provide, among other things, for limiting the Prime Minister’s term to two terms and for removing him in the event of indictment. But without a new Speaker of Parliament, nor a working Knesset, no vote… Likud’s strategy then takes shape: freeze the situation under coronavirus funds until the time limit for Benny Gantz to form a new government runs out, in a month.
Gantz filed an appeal to the Supreme Court on Thursday to resolve the situation, while a convoy of supporters en route to the Knesset was stopped on the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by police. However, Israel has not yet instituted compulsory confinement, only the limitation of so-called regrouping and movement “Not essential”. Like the normal functioning of institutions?