Barukh Binah
policy fellow, writer and former ambassador

When Jim Crow takes over Israel

Imagine a Macbeth-type pre-elections witch session where Messrs. Smotritch, Levin, and Ben-Gvir bend maliciously over a steaming cauldron even before the hurly-burly is done. They confer on going to the ballots without alerting the Israeli public to their true intentions. Their ploy was to divert Israel from its original cocoon cradle of both Jewish and democratic state and bring out a flame-throwing dragon. This dragon could scorch any liberal knight-in-shining armor who stands tall for the civil and political rights of the people, those poor souls who still think that they live in a liberal country.

Of course, there would be a need for Prince Charming to kiss the public. Not so much of a “wake up, darling” kiss, but rather the kiss of death. Their anointed Prince Charming is Benjamin Netanyahu. Some are convinced that he is too feeble and frail to do anything on his own initiative, while others say that the whole regime-change plot is his alone and that he is pushing and not being pushed unwillingly. Be it as it may, we witness a coalescing of goals:  The far right endeavor to change the country, with the prime minister’s desperate attempt to escape his corruption trial and possibly some time in jail.

It has been well-known for over 50 years that many West Bank settlers would like nothing more than a complete annexation of Judea & Samaria by the state of Israel. They would like to seize the land but not the people who dwell there. They have no problem with an Apartheid system that must ensue. Their primary prophet is Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who believes that the almighty will settle everything, including the failing economy. Another muddy stream is navigated by Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, who had failed to fulfill his own national duty and did not join the military. He now oversees the national police and apparently makes every blue-uniformed police officer shudder and jump to attention as he purges the high command of this law & order force.

Both ministers have no sentiments towards the Arab population, whether in the territories or within Israel proper.  Their racism is evident in the Smotritch refusal to disburse the funds, already authorized and appropriated, to various municipalities and projects within the Arab sector of Israel. In his column in “The Hill,” Washington DC, strategic affairs writer Dov S. Zakheim had equated this move to the abominable Jim Crow laws, which degraded the African-Americans’ status in the U.S. for many decades.

It seems that these gentlemen could not care less over the soaring numbers of murders within the Arab sector – twice as many as last year. This is just as evident in Ben Gvir’s call to the young and unruly far-right settlers to “run to the hilltops!”

Justice Minister Yariv Levin is a spectacle unto himself. With his glaring button eyes, he takes no prisoners and keeps pushing toward a complete judicial conquest, including subjugating the Supreme Court of Justice to politicians. During a heated debate over the Reasonableness Doctrine, he flatly refused any compromise, and when defense minister Yoav Gallant, fearing the implications on the capability and readiness of the fighting forces and begged him for “something,” Levin did not budge, and Gallant had to retreat in shame. He was probably thinking of his elite forces, including air force pilots and cyber whiz-kids, who reaffirmed their inability to continue volunteering for an emerging dictatorship. This Gallant-Levin confrontation took place over the very head of PM Netanyahu, who busied himself reading some papers throughout the whole animated match.

This is a first for Netanyahu, who, up till now, could always manipulate his way out of trouble by positioning his underlings against each other. It does not work anymore. It does not work with President Biden either.

Netanyahu must know what this is doing to Israel. However, he is interested primarily in his own legal situation. He may have lost his magic touch as well as his control over his government. It might be the result of his legal entanglements. Eventually, he gathered all his political cronies with the idea that they would help him reshape the judicial system so that when the time came, he could appoint a new and more lenient attorney general. Such an AG would pull out his pack of indictments or at least approve of a brilliant plea bargain that would somehow allow him to hold on to his premiership.

Netanyahu got the ultra-right Genie out of the bottle, thinking this would do the trick, only to find out that it is now the Genie asking him to carry out so many wishes…  He knows that some of these wishes are absolutely unpalatable to the general Israeli public, such as the ultra-religious parties’ ultimatum to accord rabbinic students the same status as combat soldiers in grants and amenities. They act against the equal rights of women who are now beginning to be literally pushed to the back of the bus.

Furthermore, Netanyahu does not seem as healthy as he used to be. Let us hope and pray that his newly installed pacemaker will prevent any future dehydration, as he reportedly encountered in a recent visit to the Golan Heights. However, he did not anticipate the vast number of protestors who took to city streets and national roads yelling at the top of their voices: Democracy! Democracy! Hundreds of thousands of men, women, senior citizens and school children keep showing up for thirty-two consecutive weeks, waving their blue-and-white flags and chanting, “You have tackled the wrong generation!”      So, he ponders over the forests of resistance signs covering the land as if they were the trees of Birnam forest preparing to storm Macbeth’s castle in Dunsinane.

I certainly do not wish my prime minister the Macbeth fate, but let him retire to his Caesarea mansion where he could spend many healthy years writing his exciting memories. I promise to read all his books.

About the Author
Ambassador (ret.) Barukh Binah is a policy fellow at MITVIM, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. He is also a member of the Foreign Policy Forum and of Commanders for Israel's Security. He has served in a variety of diplomatic positions vis-à-vis the United States, including Spokesman in New York, Consul General in Chicago, Deputy Head of Mission in Washington DC and Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem,  heading the North American Division. He also served as Israel's ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark. in 2017 he published a poetry book, "it only seems like healing", and recently published his book, "Sonia McConnel and other Stories"
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