Making Headlines; Making Waves
Over the last few days, among activists and leaders of the National Union party, to which I am affiliated, there has been much discussion over the decision by the MK's of the NU-NRP faction to abstain from voting against Ehud Olmert's 2006 proposed budget (which was passed last night), in return for receiving an allocation of funds that would support causes and institutions affiliated with the parties. (Deals were also made with United Torah Judaism and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party).
While it is unclear what percentage of the rank and file NU-NRP voters and supporters were in favor of such a move, 8 of the NU-NRP's 9 MK's chose to support this deal and abstain in the vote on the budget, with only Moledet (National Union) MK Aryeh Eldad voting against the budget.
Like Eldad, I too went against the decision of the leaders of the party, issuing a list of 7 problems I had with the decision for NU-NRP MK's to abstain in the budget vote, part of which was used as the featured quote in the following story by Arutz-7:
NU/NRP Plans to Abstain in Budget Vote
The NU/NRP faction has agreed not to vote against the government's budget proposal in tonight's Knesset vote, in return for NIS 122 million in funding for yeshivot & other religious-Zionist causes.
The decision by the right-wing religious party to cooperate with the Kadima-led government has caused a storm within religious-Zionist circles.
One member of the National Union, Ze'ev Orenstein, who ran for Knesset on behalf of the party in the last election, albeit in a slot considered to be not realistic, said, "Here is the perfect chance for the NU-NRP to establish itself as the true opposition in the Knesset; as faithful to the Nation, Land and Torah of Israel, and faithful to the State of Israel existing as a Jewish State - but instead, we are playing political games, showing ourselves to be no better than the MK’s in Likud, NRP, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and UTJ (and just as buyable) – and our voters will not let us forget that.
Where is our leadership? Where is our commitment to our principles? Is everything justifiable in the name of being pragmatic and real politik?"
1) MK Benny Elon, head of the NU-NRP, has stressed many times that our only hope of stopping the next expulsion is through the Knesset - presumably by toppling Olmert's government before it can implement its expulsion plans. If we wait to topple the government until the day before the expulsion, when everything is in place, and a majority vote is assured, we will have been too late. The time to act is not 2 years from now, when the expulsion is on the verge of being implemented, but today, when it is still far from a done deal.
2) True, the votes of the NU-NRP MK's may not be the deciding votes, but even so, imagine if without our votes, the budget would only pass by a handful of votes. it would be a sign to everyone that Olmert's government is weak, and even his own coalition partners do not support him.
If Olmert were not concerned about this possibility, he would not be spending hundreds of millions of NIS to buy the support of NU-NRP and Yisrael Beiteinu (as well as UTJ). Olmert knows that passing the budget in a convincing manner is crucial, as this represents his first true test as PM, and we are giving him exactly what he needs to pass it.
It is through passing the budget today, something that seems trivial, that Olmert will gain the political support, capital and momentum that he will use to eventually implement the expulsion plan. We can't allow him to gain that momentum. Every opportunity we have, we need to show how weak Olmert is, how weak his coalition is, how even members of his own party do not support him, how he cant barely pass the budget.
Instead, the story will be how the budget was passed by a wide margin, including the religious and the right - making Olmert out to be a strong PM, with the support of all segments of country (both politically and religiously).
3) The argument that since the budget will pass without our votes, and therefore, our MK's may as well abstain, and get something out of it makes us out to be no better than Shas or Aguda, when they say that they will sit with Kadima, but will only support the next expulsion if their votes are not the deciding ones (or, will vote against it, even though they are sitting in the government, since their votes will be meaningless anyway - and they will have cashed in on all of the benefits that go along with being part of the government).
Based on the above logic, perhaps our MK's should have abstained on the vote against the destruction of Gush Katif, since there was an assured majority, and perhaps we could have cashed in on it. Perhaps we should join Olmert's government now, getting lots of money for our causes, on condition that NU-NRP votes will not be the deciding votes on any crucial issue?!?
4) As for there being nothing in the current budget towards expulsion, that makes absolutely no sense. 1st, there is money to keep building the fence - the future border of Israel. 2nd, there is funding to remove "illegal outposts", and 3rd, while one might not be able to point to a particular section of the budget and say that this money is geared towards the expulsion, the money is there in other places, whether in Defense, or elsewhere, just not officially marked for those purposes. (Every organization does that - it's called creative bookkeeping).
5) Based on numerous media reports, Of the 122 million NIS that the NU is receiving, only 2.5 million NIS is allocated for those expelled from Gush Katif. That's less than 2%!!! Frankly, that's insulting. The government has an obligation to those expelled from Gush Katif, and their receiving what is rightfully coming to them should not be contingent on the NU-NRP selling out, not to mention that 2.5 million NIS will not solve any of the problems facing the Jews of Gush Katif.
As for the rest of the money, it's being broken down as follows:
NIS 22 million for national service, NIS 37 million for high school yeshivas and ulpanot, NIS 50 million for other study programs, NIS 2.5 million for projects in Jerusalem .
Last I checked, NU had 6 MK's and NRP had 3. Why is it that 99% (without exaggeration) of the budget is going towards Mafdal institutions? This is a victory for the Mafdal and their voters, and makes the NU look not only like sell-outs, but of caving in not only to Olmert, but to Orlev.
At least Olmert is the PM, and he clearly has what to offer us to support the budget, but why are we taking a back seat to Mafdal? In the next elections, voters will turn to us and say that there is no reason to vote NU, if when we had control of the Mafdal, all we did was implement their policies - they may as well vote for Mafdal, and have there be 6 NRP MK's and only 3 from the NU.
At least, show that the 122 million NIS is being invested into building in Yesha...
Furthermore, what message are we sending to our children who attend these institutions, when we tell them that for 100 million NIS+ we were willing to undermine the very values that we are teaching them in these programs?
6) If we are agreeing to sell-out, at we should get our money's worth. How can we explain that between NU-NRP (122 million NIS) and Yisrael Be'iteinu (185 million NIS), who have a total of 20 MK's combined are only receiving a little over 300 million NIS, while UTJ, with their 6 MK's are getting 290 million NIS?!?
7) By NU-NRP, as well as Yisrael Be'iteinu making deals with Kadima, there is effectively no longer any opposition party in the Knesset. Lieberman has declared that he is in favor of territorial concessions and the establishment of a P-State west of the Jordan, and the same can be said for Bibi and the Likud.
Here is the perfect chance for the NU-NRP to establish itself as the true opposition in the Knesset; as faithful to Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torah Yisrael; faithful to the State of Israel existing as a Jewish State, and instead, we are playing political games, and show ourselves to be no better than the MK's in Likud, Mafdal, Yisrael Be'iteinu, Shas and UTJ (and just as buyable) – and our voters will not let us forget that.
Where is our leadership? Where is our commitment to our principles? Is everything justifiable in the name of being pragmatic and real politik?