Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Nissan 5765 - April 13, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Rotating Opposition Chairman

By E. Rauchberger

Rotating Opposition Chairman

The Knesset opposition parties are growing more unanimous in their opinion that the time has come to find a replacement for Opposition Chairman MK Tomi Lapid. According to law the post is held by the chairman of the largest opposition party unless at least half of the opposition members sign a petition and submit it to the Knesset chairman.

The job of opposition chairman is primarily an honorary title, but it does carry a few responsibilities as well. The opposition chairman is updated at least once a month by the prime minister on policy and security matters, has a right to deliver a speech every time the prime minister addresses the Knesset and serves as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee regardless of his party quota. He rides around in a government car like a minister and gets a prestigious space in the Knesset parking lot alongside the spaces for the Knesset chairman and the prime minister, and GSS bodyguards are assigned to protect him.

Shinui is currently the largest opposition party, which automatically makes Tomi Lapid opposition chairman, even if that does not please—to put it mildly—more than a handful of opposition members.

The present opposition is comprised of parties with dichotomous views on various issues. On most issues, especially religion and policy matters, Shas, the NRP and HaIchud HaLeumi stand on one side, with Shinui and Meretz on the other. In economic affairs Meretz, Shas and the NRP seem to have much in common while HaIchud HaLeumi tends to be closer in line with Shinui. In security matters Shas and Shinui can live with one another while Meretz leans more toward the Arab parties.

When the opposition was set up Shas tried to torpedo Lapid's appointment by gathering the signatures of a majority of opposition members in favor of Eli Yishai, but Meretz refused to sign despite the poor relations between Meretz and Shinui and despite the fact that the appointment helps Shinui gain political power at Meretz' expense.

In his very first speech as opposition chairman Lapid lashed out against Shas, Meretz, Amir Peretz, the right and just about everyone else except who the opposition chairman is supposed to critique: the government and the coalition. At that point Meretz realized what they were in for, but was reluctant to dethrone Lapid due to fears of public censure for ousting the epitome of "democracy and enlightenment" and replacing him with a man from the Dark Ages, Eli Yishai. But everybody knew sooner or later Meretz would not be able to stand Lapid's big mouth any more.

That time came towards the end of the Winter Session when Lapid ruthlessly descended on Meretz Chairwoman Z. Gal-On using language unfit for print. Meretz was astonished to hear that Lapid was capable of descending to such depths. Lapid later apologized but apparently Meretz realizes the time has come to do away with him regardless of the backlash they are liable to receive from a portion of the "enlightened" public.

Meretz also found Shinui's NIS 700-million deal with Sharon repulsive. Meretz, too, was planning all along to support the budget if Sharon could not muster a majority, but they never considered extorting nearly a billion shekels from the public coffers.

Still granting the post to Shas would not be perceived favorably by its constituents so Meretz demanded a rotation agreement in which the time until the next elections would be split evenly between the two parties. Shas accepted the idea in principle, but added a twist: all opposition parties (except of course Shinui) would join forces to oust Lapid and then the post would be shared by all based on the size of the party.

For instance, if 520 days remained until the next elections Shas with its 11 MKs would receive the post for 135 days, Meretz with its six MKs for 74 days, etc. Even the United Arab List would receive 24 days, a detail that would make the plan more amenable to Meretz supporters.

If the plan takes effect it will be interested to see and hear the Prime Minister's monthly updates to Mohammad Barakeh or Azmi Bishara as well as the reactions when they take their seats as voting members of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.

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