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A Few Minutes with… David Bitan

Binyamin Rose

All at once, Bitan became one of the most powerful politicians in Israel, the man who enforces the prime minister’s orders in the Knesset

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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T wo years ago David Bitan was a largely unknown politician, a one-time deputy mayor and city-council member from Rishon LeTzion who placed 16th on the coalition list for Likud in the 2015 parliamentary elections.

All that changed dramatically in May 2016, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appointed Bitan as the chairman of the coalition, the liaison between the prime minister’s office and the Knesset.

All at once, Bitan became one of the most powerful politicians in Israel, the man who enforces the prime minister’s orders in the Knesset. Just two weeks ago, when the prime minister returned from a state visit abroad, one of his first stops was Bitan’s daughter’s wedding. “It’s heartwarming,” Bitan, who was born in Morocco, tells Mishpacha. “If you work hard and the prime minister is pleased, then why not? I know that he is very satisfied with my work.”

What are your plans regarding the draft law now that the Supreme Court has nullified it?

We will study their ruling, and present a new law, but overall, we plan to insert a clause in the new law that would allow the Knesset to overrule any Supreme Court ruling with a 61-vote majority. If the draconian draft law that Lapid passed in the previous Knesset was constitutional, so the one the Court knocked down should have been constitutional also. The principle is the same. The only difference between the Lapid law and the way the current coalition amended it is the absence of criminal sanctions on chareidim who don’t serve, and that from 2023, instead of a mandatory draft, it will be left to the discretion of the defense minister who to draft. The real solution is to establish a professional army, stage by stage, over the next ten to 15 years. When that happens, there will not be discrimination anymore.

Last week, you were part of a Knesset delegation to the United States. Can you tell us a bit about the visit from your point of view?

We visited the Federations in Atlanta and New York and met with the community leaders and rabbis from all streams. It wasn’t simple. They are very angry about the Kosel framework. But we now realize that if we resolve the Kosel problem they will not fight us over the conversion issue. I think that the Kosel issue is solvable. I told them that. Regarding conversion — it’s impossible.

How were you able, in two years, to become such a powerful figure in Israeli politics?

I have experience at the municipal level, and I’m also a lawyer. I study all the proposed legislation, and I know how to compromise between all the factions. I work with the opposition. I passed 400 laws in the second and third readings over the course of a year. There has never been such a thing. I know how to solve problems ahead of time, and I don’t wait for problems to become overgrown. I also punish MKs if they act in an improper fashion, and I annul those punishments if they rectify their behavior. At first it earned me the reputation of being aggressive, but ultimately people understood that this was good for the management of the coalition. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 679)

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