At Saturday evening’s anti-Judicial overhaul protest following Tisha B’Av, Jacob Frenkel, the former governor of the Bank of Israel spoke from the podium: “We never experienced such destruction of values in such a short time, not by our external enemies, but by government policy.” Frenkel later added: “The damage is enormous.”
Frenkel’s warning was not an isolated one. For over seven months, leaders and experts from across multiple sectors: financial, business, military and of course political have been sounding alarms that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should not pass any judicial overhaul legislation without broad consensus.
Nevertheless, on Monday, July 24, 2023 in a vote of 64-0 (wth all 56 opposition members boycotting the vote) Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing coalition unilaterally pushed through legislation overturning the reasonableness standard, or the court’s ability to nullify government decisions it finds “unreasonable in the extreme.”
It should also be noted that the vote occurred during the nine days preceding Tisha B’av, a time of great mourning for observant Jews when we remember the many tragedies that have befallen our people. Tisha B’av itself is considered to be the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. It was especially tone deaf that the coalition chose to enter into such highly controversial and fraught legislation during this time.
It turns out that enacting this type of legislation in such an unreasonable fashion has real consequences, to name a few so far:
- Morgan Stanley downgraded Israel’s sovereign credit rating to a “dislike stance”;
- Moody’s Investors Service expressed concerns that “there is significant risk that political and social tensions over the issue will continue, with negative consequences for Israel’s economy and security situation”;
- Citibank advised that its clients hold back from investing in the country, stating that recent legislative developments “challenge Israel’s economic situation” which is now much more “dangerous and complicated”;
- the head of Israel’s stock exchange urged the government to come to its senses or else face a downgrade of the country’s economy and a financial crisis;
- almost 70% of Israeli startups are taking active steps to pull money and shift parts of their businesses outside the country due to uncertainty created by the judicial overhaul;
- a survey by Israel’s Channel 13 indicated that over 28% of Israelis are considering leaving the country, over half said they feared the judicial overhaul was harming Israel’s security, and 56% were worried about civil war; and
- prior to the vote, over 11,000 Israelis in the military reserve said they’d resign if the government’s judicial overhaul went ahead.
Other important incidents have come to light following last Monday’s vote. Netanyahu apparently had assured the head of Moody’s that the reasonableness bill would not pass. Additionally, the prime minister had refused to meet with his IDF chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, who wanted to share important intelligence on the security consequences of the bill before last Monday’s vote, and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee did not meet prior to the vote for needed updates and discussion.
It’s easy to hear the echoes of Netanyahu’s words during the last election, where anyone who opposed or challenged him was a “terrorist” or an “enemy of Israel.” Too many smart people fell for it, or simply ignored it. Inflammatory rhetoric aside, at least they could be sure that the prime minister would always put Israel’s security and stability first. Whoops, not so fast there.
Perhaps it’s time for Netanyahu to heed yet another warning from someone who is not so friendly to Israel. This one from Omar Barghouti, co-founder of BDS:
“The BDS movement has tracked the most recent divestments and threats of divestment from Israel, concluding that the self-identified ‘Start-up Nation’ is increasingly and gradually looking like a Shut Down Nation.”
For decades, Zionists have fought to preserve Israel’s sovereignty, security and stability in the face of external threats, including boycotts of Israel. It is a bitter irony that Netanyahu is doing more to realize its destructive agenda than BDS ever could.
Jews who support a Jewish and democratic Israel must not remain silent.