MK Khenin: “The Key to Change is With the Public, Not the Knesset”

Leading communist activist, MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List), one of Israel’s most prolific lawmakers, told Haaretz, in an interview published on Friday, January 4, that an he regrets failing to mobilize the many Israelis who hope to end the occupation and make peace with the Palestinians and defend democracy in Israel from encroachments by Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government.

MK Dov Khenin during a demonstration in South Tel Aviv held against the expulsion of African asylum seekers and refuges, April 2018

MK Dov Khenin during a demonstration in South Tel Aviv held against the expulsion of African asylum seekers and refuges, April 2018 (Photo: Zu Haderech)

“I’ve managed to enact laws, but I’ve failed to change the country’s direction. The attacks on democracy haven’t diminished,” Khenin told Haaretz after the opposition Knesset member announced that he would not run in the next April 9 general election after 12 years in the parliament. Khenin says he has not resigned from political life and struggle “The risk of war hasn’t decreased. Profound social issues are not being dealt with. These aren’t unachievable goals but rather political decisions,” he said.

“The difficulty is that we haven’t mobilized the large number of people who seek peace, social change and democracy to pressure the government to make it happen. Even if I were elected to the next Knesset, I don’t think I’d be able to change the direction.” “The key to change is with the public, not the Knesset,” said Khenin, who will be 61 this month. “The people who want change are sitting in despair at home. The efforts that I support – against evictions from a neighborhood or against pollution – don’t create a large movement that can push politics along from another angle.”

In recent years, Khenin has spearheaded efforts including support for migrant workers, asylum seekers, low-waged working people and an improvement of public transportation. “Public transportation is critical to reduce social disparities, to expand employment and educational opportunities, and to protect the environment and quality of life for us all,” he said. “Unfortunately, not everyone in the government understands this.”

Haaretz opined that, “Few current MKs are viewed as mastering the legislative process like Khenin, a graduate of Hebrew University’s law school with a political science doctorate from Tel Aviv University. Khenin is known as an expert on the Knesset’s rules, examining bills in depth and exposing their weaknesses.” During the most recent [20th] Knesset term Khenin sponsored closed to 500 bills and over the past decade, more than 100 bills that he sponsored made it into law. “During some Knesset terms, I passed more laws than the coalition did, but it’s not the number that counts but the content,” he said.

The English version of the interview with Dov Khenin published by Haaretz