Watching from America, I’ve previously expressed astonishment at what seemed to me the overwrought reaction of hundreds of thousands of Israelis to the government’s proposals for judicial reform. Now I’m appalled by what’s happening.
Remember that blocking roads can prevent people with medical emergencies from getting to the hospital. Also consider the possible temptations to Israel’s enemies that may be fostered by refusals to do military duty.
This has gone too far.
Even as a foreigner, I think I can say that Israeli judicial reform is an ultimate necessity. The powers that Israel’s Supreme Court has arrogated to itself go far beyond those exercised by the judiciary in any other democratic country. Indeed, they are beyond what even the greatest American exponents of judicial activism would advocate.
But the priority now must be the restoration of order and civic peace. Here’s what I think Prime Minister Netanyahu should do to achieve this, after securing the concurrence of his chief Likud colleagues.
- He should address the nation, saying that the proposals for judicial reform have been temporarily suspended and will not be further advanced pending discussions with all interested parties. Ben Gvir and Smotrich will leave the coalition and bring down the government; let them, and good riddance.
- He should announce that he is resigning the premiership and retiring from public life. That would, in my view, be a very unfortunate result for Israel. It would also be unfair to Netanyahu and a sad way to end the career of an outstanding public servant who has done so much for Israel, especially in its economy and foreign relations. But given the undeserved hatred with which he is regarded by so many, his departure is necessary for there to be any chance of forming a broad centrist government.
- Name the new head of the Likud Party. Challenge Lapid and Gantz, whose behavior in this crisis has been utterly irresponsible, to commit in principle to joining a broad centrist coalition headed by Likud, making unnecessary the participation of the unspeakable Ben Gvir and Smotrich.
Such a government may be able to reach a broadly acceptable resolution of the judicial reform issue. It can then get to work on the constitution Israel so desperately needs, including electoral reform to modify or end the system of proportional representation, a system that David Ben Gurion came to believe “endangers the development of the state as well as of a political consensus, and it undermines the state’s position both in its domestic life and in its foreign policy.”