Watching from the US, I’m astonished by the vitriol and extreme views that characterize Israel’s debate over judicial reform.
Senior leaders of the opposition say this is the end of democracy. Demonstrators block traffic and reservists threaten not to report for duty. Some people even speak of civil war.
Civil war? Over this? It’s a good thing none of these people were in command positions at the time of the Altalena affair, when fighting broke out between IDF and Irgun troops right in the middle of the War of Independence. If they had been, there might never have been an Israel.
In an earlier post, I’ve stated in detail my reasons for believing the government’s proposals do not threaten democracy. Alan Dershowitz, prominent American attorney and passionate supporter of Israel, agrees with me. Though he opposes many of the government’s proposals, he has unequivocally stated that they do not “undercut democracy.”
I understand and sympathize with the fear of many Israelis that a government including the likes of Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich may adopt measures encroaching on fundamental rights. But that fear is at this point entirely speculative. Can somebody name for me a basic civil liberty of any Israeli citizen – Orthodox, secular or Arab – that the government has so far infringed?
In any event, the answer to Ben Gvir and Smotrich is not an all-powerful Supreme Court that can block measures adopted by the people’s democratically-elected Knesset, unconstrained by governing text or the doctrines of standing and justiciability. It is the formation of a unity government of the center-right and center-left to which Ben Gvir and Smotrich will not be necessary.
I hope Israelis will press the leaders of their parties to commit to joining such a government, putting the national interest above the ego and animosities that have so far prevented such an arrangement.