David K. Rees

Debunking the rightwing myth that democracy mandates their assault on the courts

It is no secret that Israel’s  racist, rightwing government has been claiming that as it won the last election, democracy mandates that they succeed in passing the legislation necessary to effect their assaults on the courts (which they call “reform”).

An analysis of the last election shows the fallacy of this argument. The present coalition is composed of three elements. The first is the Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. It has by far the most seats in the Knesset (32).  A second block of votes went to a combination of two parties (here together called “Religious Zionism”) led by Itimar Ban Gvir (who has been convicted previously of inciting a riot towards Arabs) and Bezalel Smotrich, the darling of the ultrareligious West Bank settlers, who openly maintains that Arabs have no place on the West Bank, since God promised all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea to Jews. He views Arabs as interlopers and has publicly called for burning an Arab village down. Religious Zionism has 14 seats in the present Knesset.

The two Haredi parties have 22 seats between them.  In other words, the election gave the coalition only a four-vote margin of victory,  hardly a mandate.  Moreover, the parties that were able to form a coalition together won only 49.3% of the votes counted. Thus, under the coalition’s logic, a majority of Israelis REJECTED the issues which they are trying to foist on those of us who oppose them.

There is an even more basic flaw in their position. Likud with its 32 seats is by far the largest party in the coalition. There is no indication that all Likud voters cast their votes because they agreed with the assault on the courts.  Likud has been the dominant political party in Israel for almost 20 years, which is why Netanyahu keeps serving as the Prime Minister.  There are undoubtedly some Likud voters who vote Likud because they ALWAYS vote for Likud, not because of any particular issue.

Additionally, there has been one issue which has been dominant in Israel politics ever since its inception: the ability of Israel to defend itself from attacks by those who would wipe it off the face of the earth. For the first 33 years of Israel’s existence, its main threat  came from the Arab states which surround Israel and attacked it in 1948, 1967, and 1973. After 1980, when Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty, that has no longer been the case.  Today, the main military threat to Israel comes from Iran, its proxies Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad,  as well as Hamas, which receives millions of dollars a year and sophisticated missile technology from Iran.   These three groups as a matter of their view of Islam say openly that they intend to replace Israel with a Muslim theocracy which goes from the Jordan River to the Sea. Almost daily Iran, which is on the verge of having the ability to make a nuclear bomb, together with the other terrorist organizations, threaten to destroy Israel. A Likud voter who paid attention to the issues could well have felt that the most important issue was to again make Netanyahu the Prime Minister because he would  be the best person to lead Israel, if there is a war in the near future, as seems highly likely.

Finally, it is entirely fair to judge politicians by what they do AFTER they are elected, not by what they said in the campaign. We remember Adolph Hitler as the man who started World War II and murdered 11,000,000 people, 6,000,000 of whom were Jews. He is NOT remembered for having been initially elected, though he was. If we look at what the Israeli people think of the performance of this government since it took office, the coalition loses again.  Poll after poll has shown that if elections were held now, the ruling coalition would lose badly.

The fact is that democracy supports those of us who protest the proposed government assault on the courts proudly chanting “democratia”.

About the Author
Before making Aliyah from the United States, I spent over three decades as a lawyer in the United States. My practice involved handling many civil rights cases, including women's- rights cases, in State and Federal courts. I handled numerous constitutional cases for the ACLU and argued one civil rights case in the United States Supreme Court. I chaired the Colorado Supreme Court's Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure and served on the Colorado Supreme Court's Civil Rules and Rules of Evidence Committees. Since much of my practice involved the public interest, I became interested in environmental law and worked closely with environmental organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). I was on the Rocky Mountain Board of EDF. I received an award from the Nebraska Sierra Club as a result of winning a huge environmental case that was referred to me by EDF. I also developed significant knowledge of hazardous and radioactive waste disposal. I was involved in a number of law suits concerning waste disposal, including a highly-political one in the United States Supreme Court which involved the disposal of nuclear waste. As I child I was told by my mother, a German, Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany, that Israel was a place for her and her child. When I first visited Israel many years later, I understood what she meant. My feeling of belonging in Israel caused me to make Aliyah and Israel my home. Though I am retired now, I have continued my interest in activism and the world in which I find myself.
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