In the Absence of Transparency – There is Corruption!
Great News: We've Blocked Netanyahu's Efforts to Bypass the Knesset
"Why don't you smile?"
"Why don't you smile?", "How come you're broadcasting the discussion via Facebook Live?", "Didn't you have enough?", "Why don't you eat something?"
They tried using misogyny, racism, screaming, back-door deals, throwing insults, but we did not give in. And this is what happened: after dozens of long and intense hours of fighting against the law to disguise the budget – the dangerous article was amended.
All the details of the budget will be sent to the finance committee and for the Knesset's oversight, as it should be in a democracy. State funds will not be funneled under the table and behind our backs.
MK David Bitan, Micky Zohar and other Likud and coalition members in the Finance Committee did everything in their power – literally everything – in order to avoid a discussion of the great travesty that Netanyahu tried to pass in the Knesset as part of the biannual budget. In order not to discuss the fact that the government tried to rob the Knesset of its most fundamental commitment to the public – supervising the handling of its money.
In an embarrassing session, which lasted 13 hours, viewed by some of you via a live broadcast on my Facebook page, one could see how the speaker of the coalition and his friends were simply losing it. Misogynists, racists, vain and rude – the coalition members demonstrated how they work under pressure. And what made them feel that way? the fact they were observed by you.
After hours of raising objections in the session of the Finance Committee, the coalition members were exhausted and proposed us a compromise: only budgetary amendments of over 20% will be brought to the approval of the Finance Committee. It might sound technical to some of you, but it really isn't. Had we accepted that, we would've enabled, for example, Jewish Home MKs like Bezalel Smotrich to extort five billion shekels from the government for his friends – and we wouldn't have had any way to see it in the budget or to know that we are voting on it. Had they removed 10 million shekels from aid money for homeless people – we wouldn't have known about it. Would you have agreed to that? Certainly not. That is why we dragged our objections into the night, until Finance Committee Chairman, Gafni, sealed the session without voting on the bill.
Yesterday morning the coalition already realized that we are not about to back down and agreed to amend the bill, so any budgetary change would pass through the committee members. This is an important triumph, which sets the stage for the great battle over the budget.
They didn't want you to see what's happening in the Finance Committee. See, the Knesset discussions are always broadcasted live in the committee's website, as mandated by the law. However, in the course of the session yesterday the coalition members threatened to stop the broadcast. How lucky we are that they can not longer do that – we have Facebook, and we have one another. Once I decided to broadcast the discussion myself, the coalition turned hysterical. They know that the budget about to be approved is a disgrace. They know that if you see what it entails – you will be furious like I am. That is why they lost it when they realized that thousands are viewing us, broadcasted live on my Facebook page. That is why they voted against all my objections to the law. Then they claimed that my objections are redundant.
Here's a taste of some of my objections:
I demanded that the government reveals how much of the budget will be invested in socio-economically low-ranking areas.
I demanded that the government reveals how much money would be invested in public housing against the number of citizens entitled to it, who are currently homeless.
I demanded that each of the relevant government ministries reveals the parts of the budget that are designed to tackle poverty and present its work plan to address that.
I demanded that any privatization of essential services as part of the budget plan shall pass only with a parallel economic and supervisory plan to ensure the quality service to the citizen instead of the usual rollback of the state.
I had several hundreds of additional ideas for improvement.
When I insisted on presenting them – even if it takes all night, tomorrow, and they day after – the coalition offered that I fold back in exchange for money that it would give us, to hand out to whoever we please. You get it? They expected us to agree to trade with them with your money!! It's unbelievably disgraceful and nauseating. But there are people here who think that this is simply how politics works. That this is how things go. They don't realize things have changed.
Unlike what they've grown accustomed to think, politics is designed not for backdoor dealings on the public's expense. It is about genuinely making things right. To come to parliament every morning and fight as hard as we can to make Israelis' lives better and safer.
Of all the personal attacks I've had to take from the coalition members, only one really annoyed me. "Why don't you smile?".
MK David Bitan, why don't I smile, you're asking? Because the circus you're making of the country is really not funny. I'm ashamed of all that you represent. I know how hard people work here for their money and I expect you to treat it with silk gloves. Our country deserves much much better.
The support you gave me, on social media, emails and in the Knesset, empowers me to continue with our common struggle for an egalitarian budget and full transparency of the government policy. The great struggle still lies ahead – against the destructive bi-annual budget that Netanyahu's government seeks to pass. A budget that would only hurt the market and the economic interests of the State of Israel and its citizens, and which is meant to serve the sole purpose of preserving this corrupt coalition.
Soon the budget will be put on the Knesset table. As always, the government will give us too little time to study it, in order to ensure that Members of Knesset don't really understand what they're voting on. It's infuriating and I am already taking every possible measure to prevent the perpetuation of that practice. In parallel we must prepare for such a discussion, based on too little information and pressures coming from every possible direction. If we want to find out where every shekel goes to from the thousands of articles in the budget – we need an army of investigators.