‘We’re not just decoration’: New coalition moves are warnings, not crisis points yet

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The ruling coalition suffered two blows this week, with a boycott of the vote by Blue and White and the first ministerial resignation. But the parties involved both say their decisions are driven more by frustration at not getting the respect of the current coalition than by a desire to overthrow it.

Blue and White followed Ra’am’s playbook on Monday by declaring a week-long election strike to protest the coalition’s lack of support for his legislative agenda, including a recent proposal to legalize a longstanding practice of raising army pensions for career officers.

The centrist Blue and White is using the vote boycott tactic just a week after Mansur Abbas’ Islamist party staged a similar protest.

And on Tuesday, Yisrael Beytenu’s Eli Avidar, who had served as a minister without portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office, became the first cabinet minister to step down and return to the Knesset.

The two back-to-back blows to the government signal that the coalition seems to be biting the hands that feed it and needs to be more careful before these cries for attention turn into cries for the election.

Speaking to The Times of Israel from his Knesset office on Tuesday, Blue and White MK Alon Tal shared that his party’s frustration is rooted in a pervasive sense of being marginalized in the current coalition.

“We’re not just decoration, we’re the second largest party in this coalition,” Tal said. Blue and White narrowly holds the accolade with eight seats, behind Yesh Atid’s 17.

Tal described a sense of “disdain” within the government toward his and Blue and White’s programs.

Blue and White MP Alon Tal. (Elad Malka)

‘I feel like it sometimes takes months to get meetings with ministers and they are delaying my legislation on some of the little things,’ the first MP explained.

Additionally, Blue and White is frustrated that its legislative goals are not advancing, including and beyond the current issue of military pensions. Blue and White secured commitments in the coalition agreement to advance a legislative platform that includes integrating the ultra-Orthodox community into the military, benefits for reserve soldiers and expanding national service .

While the relevant bills passed the Cabinet’s Legislative Affairs Committee — the first step for government-backed bills — they failed in the Knesset. The ultra-Orthodox conscription bill passed its first reading in late January, after being torpedoed by a Meretz lawmaker two weeks earlier.

In Tal’s words, “the powers that be don’t prioritize them.”

As for the much-discussed issue of pensions themselves, Tal explained the issue as something the military has “always done” to incentivize talent, but now requires legislation. Last year, the High Court of Justice ruled there was no legal basis for army pension schemes and, according to Tal, set February 28 as the deadline for passing enabling legislation. .

In addition to legislative issues, Tal said Blue and White is feeling the downside of delays in transferring and creating important party positions, as well as not being consulted on major policy decisions.

“We are frustrated that the Innovations Authority is supposed to be transferred entirely to the Minister of Science and Technology [Orit Farkash HaCohen] and we gave up a lot of other important stuff for her to run this, Tal said. “We were promised more civilian posts in the West Bank to start enforcing positions against lawless youth, but we didn’t get the [head count] of the Treasury”.

Orit Farkash-Hacohen, then Minister of Tourism, holds a press conference on promoting foreign tourism, in Tel Aviv on April 27, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We are frustrated that the Israeli government is coming up with a plan to reduce our high cost of living and not even talking to the party that holds the chairmanship of the Economic Affairs Committee – through which all [the plan’s measures] have to pass anyway. »

“These are the kind of little insults that pile up,” Tal said. On Monday, the army pension legislation was the straw that broke Blue and White’s camel’s back.

Alongside Blue and White’s week-long election strike, Avidar resigned as minister on Tuesday in order to be a voting member of the Knesset.

During a press conference announcing his decision, Avidar told reporters that the government had broken its promise not to deliver him a content-rich portfolio, and suggested that the government’s current behavior was also disappointing compared to the objectives of the other members of the coalition.

“I fear the government is not fulfilling its obligations to the public that brought it to power,” Avidar said.

In addition to failing to pass legislation to prevent lawmakers facing serious criminal charges from forming a government – widely accepted as a move against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Avidar has criticized Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, calling him “hysterical” in his response to COVID and questioning the rotation of power scheduled for August 2023.

“Naftali Bennett has no commitment to the rotation,” Avidar said.

Minister Eli Avidar speaks during a press conference at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem, February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Avidar initially resisted COVID vaccinations and opposed lockdown measures, which he reiterated in his remarks. He also accused the government – which he called the liberal camp – of not competently handling the harsh politics of holding on to power.

“The difference between the conservative camp and the liberal camp is that the conservative camp works all year, all day, non-stop, with an agenda to overthrow the government,” he said. On the other hand, the government is involved in “selfies, cool videos from TikTok”.

“That way we won’t win,” Avidar said.

However, Avidar and Blue and White Tal made efforts to say they supported the coalition and did not threaten an immediate crisis. But, they point out, the control attitude of the coalition must change to respect the promises and the priorities.

“I will work to do everything so that this government lives its days. But the survival of the government is not a value in itself…the government must deliver on its promises,” Avidar said. “[The government] should change its behavior and be no worse than the alternative.

“It’s very important that you make that distinction,” Tal said. “We are not overthrowing the government. We insisted on voting against the resolution of no confidence [on Monday].”

Looking to the future, Tal expressed his party’s desire to be a full and respected coalition partner.

“We want to say we are with the government, but we are not going to lend a hand on legislation from other departments while our main agenda is being neglected,” he said. “Bennett and Lapid will have to bring us home. We want to be back in the fold, but it has to be on the basis of a fair deal.

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