So now comes Yuli Edelstein, once a prisoner of conscience, to decide alone who shall run Israel. Do we, in the U.S., thoroughly distracted by our problems, have anything to add?
Defiance of the Supreme Court of the U.S. offers some insights. Andrew Jackson refused to obey orders which would have protected the Cherokees from expulsion from their native lands in Georgia. He said, Justice Marshall has made his ruling, now let him enforce it. The result was the trail of tears, a blot on Jackson’s name and a discredit to our country. Southerners defied Brown v.Board of Ed. It took the Army, ordered to the scene by President Eisenhower, to implement the Court’s desegregation decree in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Southern resistance, which failed, is universally condemned today. In fact, there is no instance of which I am aware in which direct defiance of our Court has been sanctioned by historical judgment.
True, Court judgments have been overturned, but these precedents are hardly comforting. It took a Civil War to overcome Dred Scott v. Sandford, and a Constitional amendment to overturn our Court’s muddle-headed decision in the 1890’s voiding the federal income tax. We should be reminding our Israeli brothers and sisters of these lessons. They have to work out their own fate, to be sure. But we have 200 years of constitutional experience to share with them, and we should.
The situation is the more remarkable because Edelstein is or was, I should say, not a governor or a president, but just a parliamentary functionary. Thus, his closing of the Knesset, and subsequent resignation, are purely acts of personal will. Lawyers, American and Israeli alike, all know constitutional norms, like the right of a parliament to sit, cannot depend for their sustenance on personal whim. Why pretend to have laws and norms if they can be so easily overriden.
So this lawyer and retired judge thinks we here should ally with those in Israel who seek to uphold the rule of law. By doing so, we also enhance our claim of right to defend consitutional freedoms in our country. Israel is the only democratic, law bound country in the Middle East. The Israeli example defies critics who say our values are national, not universal. If Israel succumbs to mere personal whims, we in America will be all the poorer. We have a stake in Israel. If the law loses in Israel, it will be diminished in the United States.