The Leader of the Opposition criticized the Minister of Justice for not providing a reason for the government’s position on the Bill to Change the Administration System. She then reproached the Prime Minister: “As his student, if he had to give you a grade with regard to the `five Mems`, what grade would you receive?”
The Knesset Plenum marked the day of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s passing in speeches by the Knesset Speaker, the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition. The CEO of the Jabotinsky Institute, former MK Yosef Ahimeir; the CEO of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Herzl Makov; members of the Commemoration Council for Dignitaries and members of the Beitar youth movement participated in the event.
The Speaker of the Knesset, MK Yuli-Yoel Edelstien opened the day: “My Jabotinsky is a man who stood up for his beliefs. A Zionist diplomat and a fighting Jew who believed that ‘quiet is mud’. He had a big heart, and he wouldn’t let his fate and the fate of his nation fall into the hands of others. His devotion to national and personal principles, and foremost to the principle of liberty is what brought Jabotinsky to the conclusion that only a Jewish independent democratic state in the land of Israel would ensure a Jewish rebirth.
“The Jewish democratic State of Israel faces great challenges today. The Middle East has gone through an indescribable turmoil, with both positive and negative results. Around us, the storms rage, and we do not know what tomorrow may bring. The Arab Spring became anarchy. In Syria there is a civil war drenched in blood, that is accompanied by international disinterest. In Egypt, crowds are taking to the streets in protest of a failed government. The lack of a structured political tradition for replacing government and for new generations led our neighboring countries to uncontrollable chaos.
“Anarchy is a contagious disease and Israel is not immune to it. No one will defend Israeli democracy if we don’t. Every member of this house has the obligation to respect the majority, the minority and this house. This is the only place where the decisions are made, even if at times they are difficult or painful.
“It is the obligation of every Member of Knesset to oppose laws, even if this is in opposition to the majority. But a call made upon this stage, to disobey and to break the laws, a call to anarchy is dangerous for everyone. There is a thin line between legitimate objection and a call to anarchy, and that is a line we mustn’t cross.
“In the name of Jabotinsky, who saw the essence of democracy in agreement and not in coercion; I beseech you: The coalition and the opposition, to try and build bridges and come to as many agreements as possible. We will not be happy as a result of crushing our rivals. The more we are able to work in agreement, even if this agreement is minimal and temporary, the better it will be for us and for all the residents of Israel.”
The Leader of the Opposition, MK Shelly Yachimovich, first addressed the Bill to Change the Administration System that was approved in the plenum just minutes earlier, in a heated discussion. “I wonder what Jabotinsky would have thought about what took place here only 20 minutes ago.” Yachimovich quoted Jabotinsky’s writings: “’It is an incorrect idea that a government that relies on a majority is necessarily democratic… Democracy means freedom. Even a government supported by a majority can deny people of their freedom.’” Yachimovich addressed Minister of Justice, MK Tzipi Livni and wondered, “Why didn’t you stand up and express your opinion on this bill? You sent the Minister of Welfare to respond in your stead. I understand that there is competition between the Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beitenu parties, both of which are very undemocratic, and whose leaders will always be stronger than the parties themselves. But I would’ve expected you, a Jabotinsky follower, to come up here and say these things instead of me.”
After this, Yachimovich responded to the Speaker of the Knesset’s comment about MKs missing from the plenum, and said, “I completely reject the public reprimand and lesson you gave us for not participating in explaining the motion of no-confidence we presented via MK Michal Biran. We were in a meeting with the Farmer’s Lobby, which you approved. I saw you sitting here with 12 MKs who were hurt by the loss of control, and that many of you who could not get used to the new situation did not sit here and no one said a word or preached at you. You also demanded of MK Herzog to explain his objection, because he didn’t interject as part of the parliamentary agenda. What is this? A prize for good behavior? I ask you to protect this house, this democracy that Jabotinsky wrote so much about.”
Yachimovich added, “Protect the democracy Jabotinsky wrote so much about. There is a limit to the cynicism and the spins that can be made by the coalition. Don’t exaggerate pessimism and evil, be careful.
“Jabotinsky wrote about five `Mems`: Food, housing, clothing, schools and health. I’m sure you recall these, Minister Landau. What have you done about them?
“Food- how did you make it so that food prices in Israel are 20% higher than those in the West? You didn’t check to see if there was competition, and you have not fought against the monopolies. Now, you are raising the VAT in order to further raise the price of food. It would be right, if you were to actually talk about these issues, and not just to use pompous symbolism.
“Housing- housing prices have gone up by 48% in your four years in office, and now you are forming another committee and another cabinet. You don’t build houses out of cabinets. You raise the taxes on those improving housing. You are taxing them? You are cancelling benefits to residents of the periphery? You need 140 salaries to buy a house. This is obviously imaginary. Houses are not built out of Facebook statuses, in case the Minister of Finance didn’t know.
“Clothing- We are partaking in the slavery in Bangladesh. If you bought a shirt for 100 NIS that was manufactured in Bangladesh, the production cost was 22 cents.
“Schools- the Free Education Law is dead, thanks to your frightful cutbacks.” Yachimovich addressed the Prime Minister: “With you, this is an ideology: A small country and a large private sector. The current budget will ruin the little that was achieved in the last term. The Trachtenberg committee’s findings that were implemented were shriveled from the start, and even those you are butchering: you are cutting subsidies for day care, cutting hours for elementary schools, delaying the validation of an organized education day and the list goes on.
“Health- we had a wonderful health care system that received prizes from the Global Healthcare Association, but you are wearing it out, starving and privatizing it. How much can we rely on the ethos of the doctors and nurses? 83% of the citizens hold supplementary insurance, after paying Health Tax. 42% of citizens hold private insurance. Is this the healthcare Jabotinsky wanted? That more money is needed than what is paid to the public system in order to receive good healthcare?
“Jabotinsky is not my spiritual leader. I belong to a different political camp. However, Mr. Prime Minister, you say that he is your teacher. If Jabotinsky had to give you a grade, as his student, on the five Mems, what grade would you receive?” ended Yachimovich.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the podium to speak, MK Yehiel Hilik Bar (Israel Labor Party) interjected: “Jabotinsky would be ashamed of the Likud party today.” Netanyahu responded: “Even today, his ideas remain relevant.”
Netanyahu stated that sadly, “For many years, Jabotinsky did not get the proper recognition he deserved. Also those who were not his students learn to recognize his contribution. His contributions to the Zionist movement and to the founding of the State of Israel are monumental.
“Jabotinsky’s ideas influence the culture and the character of Israeli society until this day. He recognized the importance of peace. Not just as a dream, he saw peace as intertwined with another idea of his – the iron wall.
“The great enemy preventing us from having peace with our neighbors is not only terrorist organizations, but the belief that it is possible to wipe out Zionism and the State of Israel. This is our main obstacle. These organizations and states instill their publics with the false hope that we can be defeated by the sword. We cannot be defeated. The hope and the belief live on.
“Jabotinsky said it is impossible to achieve sustainable peace. Our job is to push away those who seek to harm us. We must protect ourselves, and also show the other side that there is no point to a continuous battle against us. This stance guides me in all of our actions. Today it is obvious that Jabotinsky was different than how he is often depicted: He was not an objector to peace, and he was not a radical nationalist. We are the followers in his path: Peace can only be made with those who are strong. And a peace agreement that will leave Israel defenseless will not hold up.
“Israel must protect her fortitude. There is no morality in being weak, in holding out our necks toward the hatchets facing a steaming and volatile surrounding. Our policy is not throwing sand in anyone’s eyes. We have not suggested to anyone, not even to our best ally, the US, to take one of the participants of our dispute and simply get rid of it.”