The year of a knife and arson

Recently, the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin said that “another (after assassination of Ytzhak Rabin) political murder is possible”, meaning threats to his life posted on Internet. New gruesome acts of Jewish extreme right (arson of the Church of Multiplication, arson-murder of 18 month old Ali Dawabsha, Shira Banki stabbing and threats of violence tossed on the Internet to members of the Government and the President) brought the State of Israel to the point of historical choice. Missing that point will put existence of the state itself in question.

For more than four decades starting from the victory in 1967 war Israeli government constructed settlements in the West Bank citing reasons of security and following the belief that the whole historical land of Israel comprised of Judea, Samaria and Gasa shall be included into the modern Israeli state. The means with which it has been and is done are sometimes far from even the law of Israel.

A vivid example is the construction of new Ulpana neighborhood of Beit El, where Defense Ministry and Civil Administration approved construction of nearly 500 new buildings acting against a High Court decision, prohibiting construction on the confiscated land in the West Bank. Decision to construct 296 of these buildings was passed right in the face of US vice-president Joe Biden, on his visit to Jerusalem with a new peace initiative.

This decision clearly demonstrated two things. First: the settlers were granted by the military and by the Executive a virtual immunity from the decisions of highest judicial authority of the country. Thus the Government effectively undermined the Constitution, it is supposed to act according to. Second: coinciding the decision to build 296 homes with the visit of the US vice-president is an outright manifestation of disrespect and irreverence to the Israeli only ally. A two-year old example, but still a very vivid one.

According to UN and Yesh Din statistic reports between 200 and 300 attacks on the Palestinian persons and property are recorded each year in the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria) by Judea and Samaria police. Only 7,4% of this cases from 2005 to 2014 have led to indictments of suspected Israeli citizens.

Since 1967 settlers in the West Bank enjoy the extraterritorial rights given to them by the Emergency Regulations bill extended ever since. Seemingly, the inaction of local police force gives them immunity from even the civil law of their own country. It is not surprising, that individuals, enjoying such impunity are extending their activities to the Israeli main. And Yishai Shlissel (resident of Modiin Illit settlement) murder of Shira Banki is an illustrative example of this.

Following this gruesome acts government announced a crackdown on Jewish extremists. Politicians from every quarter condemned the attacks. But that can prove to be «too little, too late». Corrosion has already cut too deep into the fabric of the state.

A research by Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) in conjunction with the Avi Chai Foundation, published in 2009 entitled “A Portrait of Israeli Jews: Beliefs, Observance, and Values of Israeli Jews” gave an appalling result. Just 44% of participants consider that the law of the State of Israel has precedence over the Torah while 20% think in the exact opposite way and 36% said, as quoted by Arutz Sheva “that circumstance would dictate their choice”. Effectively, that means that 56% of the Jewish population partially or in full do not recognize the law of the only Jewish state on Earth.

The vivid example of this is the case, reported earlier by this paper (“Who writes the law for the Land of Israel? Supreme Court case asks” by Amanda Borschel-Dan), of a family from an ultra-Orthodox town of Elad, just 25 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, that were excommunicated by local “private” rabbinical court following an unauthorized construction dispute brought by that family to the police and civil court. The writ of denial led to ousting the family’s kids from a local school and made it’s members prone to the boycott and intimidation by their religious neighbors. The case is being deliberated by the High Court. Members of the family in question were not even mentioned by their full names in the story. Very likely, they refused to disclose their identities not to evoke more trouble they already have.

There is no wonder then, that Motti Yogev publicly offered to bulldoze the High Court over the decision to demolish two buildings, constructed by settlers on the Palestinian land. It is actually already had been bulldozed before by those, who defied and diminished the authority of the civil law itself.

Fighting any extremist movement in the country where from a quarter to a half of the population do not recognize or question the country’s law and consequently the legitimacy of it’s authorities is a difficult task. In some examples, it brought countries to the prolonged civil conflict or into a revolution. In democratic secular countries, governments lacking legitimacy simply loose elections to the opposition, which in turn changes the laws to the effect desired by it’s constituents. In the countries where religion is a part of political discourse states collapse and are replaces by religious regimes that effectively bring them down to authoritarian rule, religious totalitarianism or even Medieval Age. There are a lot of examples of that among Israel’s Islamic neighbors.

Lack of legitimacy in the eyes of the public in 1979 brought down the Shah of Iran government, that tried to counter Islamic movement. Soviet-backed secular Afghan government of president Najibullah has fallen from the hands of Mujahidin Islamic guerrillas, that later succumbed to even more extremist Taliban. Unable to live to it’s own law and secularist principles Turkish Republican People’s Party in 2001 lost elections to the quasi-Islamic regime of Regep Tayyp Erdogan.

The State of Israel stands at the point of historical choice, one the most important in it’s 67th year of existence. Ether it will become a religious state, ruled by the interpretations of the law compiled in 1563 or develop as a modern democratic state, run “by the people and for the people” for peace and prosperity. Missing that point in hope “to muddle through” will have much more disastrous consequences than any Iran Deal or a two-state solution. Effort by the Israeli elites must be taken not only to confront the growing threat of extreme-right terrorism, but to ensure and strengthen the rule of law within the country.

Lev Kadik

About the Author
Lev Kadik is a historian and journalist, born in Moscow, Russia, Writes on business, international relations, history and foreign policy. Father of four. Made Alyah in September 2015. Going native... Follow for updates!
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