Adam Bernstein
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How the pro-democracy movement is killing democracy

Pushing for military disobedience gives soldiers precedent for future boycotts of, say, a land deal with the Palestinians
The weekly protests in Tel Aviv (Photo by Yair Palti/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The weekly protests in Tel Aviv (Photo by Yair Palti/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Calls for military disobedience seem an uncomfortable but necessary step in order to protect Israeli democracy. However, this push for military disobedience could backfire on the pro-democracy movement if it prevents a future government from enforcing a potential land deal with the Palestinians.

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In any country, formal constitutions are not the only guiding force—unwritten precedents hold immense power too. In Israel, one such precedent is that soldiers dutifully obey orders regardless of their political affiliations or the content of the orders. Assuming the current disobedience continues this norm will be fatally undermined threatening the potential for a lasting peace deal with the Palestinians.

At some point in the distant future, a negotiated solution to the conflict might demand the Israeli army to uproot Jewish settlements from the West Bank. With half a million settlers and immense biblical significance, any such evacuation would pose a huge challenge, and exacerbate unspoken tensions within the Zionist enterprise . This would create colossal strain on Israeli society, eclipsing even the tensions of the Gaza disengagement. The religious right, fueled by territorial maximalism, would stop at nothing to stop this from happening.

Right-wing leaders could demand soldiers cease evacuations, citing the norms being established now. More worryingly, soldiers with right-wing or religious leanings might defy orders, by simply refusing to turn up, or even worse, defending settlements against the soldiers trying to evacuate them. This infighting would force any future government to end the evacuations, and with them any hope of a clean separation from the Palestinians.

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The evacuation of settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state is far more significant than the current reforms for the nature of Israeli democracy. Though the reforms do chip away at Israeli democracy, the half-century-long rule over 5 million Palestinians already shows that in many ways Israel is not fully a democracy.

Of course, the current reforms matter. But the occupation means that Israeli democracy is fundamentally flawed. Let’s not give up on an end to the occupation just to end these reforms

About the Author
Adam Bernstein is a graduate of PPE and Modern Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford. He is currently working as a freelance political analyst.
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