Lisa Liel

Understanding Those Who Oppose the Reform

I understand the people who oppose the judicial reform.

Israel has long been split between those who see the Jewish people as a special people, with a special purpose in the world, and a special relationship with God — and people who want Israel to be “a nation like all the other nations.”

This split predates the state.  And in the early days of the state, even those who wanted to be a nation like all the other nations still maintained a vestige of old fashioned Jewishness, since they or their parents had come from the old country.

In the early years of the state, the socialist left dominated the political scene absolutely, and no one who disagreed mattered.  The majority considered those who disagreed to be primitives and rabble, and they were quite open about it, because as a certain US president was wont to say, “Elections have consequences.”

But times change.  Populations change. Election results change.  In a democracy, this is understood.  In a constitutional republic, which Israel is not, in large part due to the opposition of Ben Gurion, who famously stated that “a new constitution will bind the hands of the legislator” (as if that wasn’t the very point of a constitution), the constitution acts as a stabilizing force, preventing major changes in population from causing major disruptions to the country, and allowing such disruptions only when sufficient support exists to amend the constitution.

But we are not a constitutional republic, and that means the will of the people is not constrained in that way.

The Israeli public today is far more conservative than it has been in the past.  Decades upon decades of terror have resulted in a public that wants to take a strong hand with our enemies.  Decades upon decades of eroding Jewish faith and values in government schools have resulted in a widespread return to tradition.  Not always in the form of baalei teshuva, mind you.  But today, vast numbers of Israeli youth, despite their disinterest in keeping Shabbat in all its detailed rules, or keeping every detail of kashrut, are becoming more and more attached to the faith of their ancestors.

Nature abhors a vacuum.  And the emptiness offered by the left has been filled by elements of the same Judaism that the left disdained.

The result has been a change in the electoral results.  But that change has not been reflected in the actions of the government.  Because they have long believed in the superiority of the “enlightened ones” of the left.  The academics.  The media.  They have accepted the judgment of their “betters”, and despite having been sent to serve in the Knesset by people who wanted conservative policies to be enacted, they have continued, by and large, to enact the policies desired by the elite of the left.

Imagine how different things would be if the first time the court overstepped its boundaries and struck down a law based on nothing but its subjective feelings, the government had simply condemned them, told them to stay in their lane, and continued leading the country that had elected them?

Imagine how different things would be if the first time an attorney general (the actual translation of the title is “legal advisor to the government”) had vetoed a government action, the government had simply said, “Thanks for the advise.  Now go away while the elected representatives of the people do their work.”

Imagine how different things would be if the first time the court told a government minister, “No, you don’t get to defend your actions in court; only the unfireable AG can do that, and if they decide not to, well… sucks to be you”, that they’d simply rolled their eyes and said, “What is this, a banana republic?” and gotten their own legal representation.

The very people in the government who are now demanding judicial reform are responsible in large part for enabling and empowering the judicial supremacists.

But that leftist elite that truly needs that judicial supremacy continues to age, and those who feel the strongest attachment to that worldview are the ones with the lowest birth rates in the country.  Their influence shrinks by the day.  And yet they are unwilling to bow to the reality of the fact that their own ideology has resulted in its own dissolution.

I understand them.  They know that in a nation growing more and more conservative, the more and more progressive-left policies they want have next to no chance of happening organically and democratically.  Their only option is for these policies to be imposed on the country by force majeure.  Without a body such as Israel’s Supreme Court being able to push those policies on a populace that doesn’t want them, they are lost.  The Israel they want is changing, and they are responding to that change — a change that cannot be halted at the ballot box — with sheer panic.  With frustrated rage.

It would be easy to dismiss their reaction as a tantrum.  But how many on the conservative / traditional side would be able to accept such changes with equanimity if they were in the opposite direction?

When they shout slogans about democracy, no, of course they don’t mean they want democracy.  They want the opposite.  Of course, they’d be quite happy to have democracy if that meant having their way, if it meant forcing their views on us, as they have done for so long, if they could look at us and tell us smugly that “elections have consequences”, but they don’t want democracy if it means they have to give in to what we want.  They want judicial supremacy, because only that can stop the changes that are so abhorrent to them.

I don’t say all of this to suggest that they should be permitted to continue the antidemocratic judicial system that has been riding roughshod over the Israeli public for the past 25+ years.  Of course not.  But I understand them.  I understand why they are fighting so brutally and hysterically.  I understand why they are willing to threaten the rest of us with civil war.  And I hope that after reading this, you will, too.

About the Author
Lisa Liel lives in Karmiel with her family. She works as a programmer/developer, reads a lot, watches too much TV, does research in Bronze/Iron Age archaeology of the Middle East, and argues a lot on Facebook.
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