Benjamin Netanyahu with Likud ministers at weekly cabinet meeting, Sunday, January 12, 2014. From left: Gilad Erdan (communications); Yuval Steinitz (intelligence); Netanyahu; cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit; Gideon Saar (interior) / Getty Images
When should the legislature intrude on the executive branch’s authority to conduct foreign policy by seeking to dictate the terms of sensitive negotiations? Good question, but don’t ask Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His answer seems to depend on who’s doing the negotiating and who’s doing the micromanaging. And he’s not even embarrassed by the .
Netanyahu was said to be angered by a bill that would require prior Knesset approval before his government can enter any negotiations over the future status of Jerusalem or Palestinian refugees. So Maariv’s Zeev Kam reported on Thursday.
Netanyahu reportedly lit into the bill, proposed by Likud hard-liner Miri Regev, at last Sunday’s weekly meeting of Likud-Beiteinu ministers, shortly before the weekly full cabinet meeting. “He appeared particularly angry when the topic came up,” several participants told Kam:
“Nobody should preach to us about Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said when discussing the proposed legislation and Knesset member Regev. Netanyahu went on to emphasize to the ministers that conducting negotiations is the government’s responsibility.”Private member bills like these damage the government’s functioning,” Netanyahu emphasized.
Regev’s bill was brought that afternoon before the ministerial committee on legislation, where it was turned down, with only two ministers from the Jewish Home party backing it. According to Maariv, it would have gotten the support of one Likud minister, communications minister Gilad Erdan, who had submitted a similar bill in the last Knesset. But Erdan was called away just before the committee met for an urgent meeting in the prime minister’s office, resulting in Likud-Beiteinu delivering a unanimous vote for the prime minister’s stance.
Regev, who chairs the Knesset interior committee, later attacked the Likud ministers’ behavior as “shameful.”
The power of the executive branch to conduct foreign policy and negotiations without interference or micromanaging from the legislature is pretty standard democratic political theory. Still, it’s rather rich to hear it coming from someone who’s pushing the United States Congress to dictate negotiating terms to the American president.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).