Paul Gross

Why oppose the government’s ‘reforms’? Because of the facts

Demonstrating for democracy in Jerusalem
A wise man once said, “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.”
In that spirit, I want to list some facts, not opinions, which I cite when asked why I oppose the government’s “reforms”.
1. As set out by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the reforms would result in almost absolute power for the prime minister and his coalition, with the only real check being the consciences and backbones of individual MKs from coalition parties. (As I’m just dealing with facts here, I won’t state my opinion as to how reassuring I find that…)
2. There have been numerous proposals in recent years for reforms to the current flawed system of Israel’s governance and relationship between the branches. Some coming from the right, some from the left. Levin and Simcha Rothman adopted the most extreme option for every aspect (override clause, appointments committee, legal advisors), in each one choosing the version most obviously designed to give unchecked power to the coalition.
3. Despite the constant claims from the government and its supporters, these reforms will not make Israel more like other democracies. Quite the contrary, we will in fact very closely resemble former democracies now regarded as authoritarian, or on the road to authoritarianism, which brings me to…
4. There are well-established connections and working relationships between the Likud and Hungary’s ruling Fidesz Party, with both sides proclaiming their mutual admiration. Yariv Levin has also spoken about democracy in a markedly similar way to Viktor Orban – as a system of majority government, without the liberal protections for minority rights.
It was also recently revealed that the Israeli government sought the advice of Poland for its judicial reform.
So despite Bibi’s claims that his intention is to *improve* Israeli democracy with these reforms, and that there’s no threat to our civil rights, his ideological model seems to be two former liberal democracies that have taken sledgehammers to their independent judiciaries and – in Hungary’s case – also to the free press, academic freedom, and fair elections.
You can have whatever opinions you want about the Supreme Court, Netanyahu’s corruption trial, the previous government, Ben Gvir’s fitness for ministerial office, or anything else. But given the facts (not opinions), there is every reason in the world for Israelis who value liberal democracy to greatly fear, and to unequivocally oppose, the government’s “reforms”.
About the Author
Before moving to Israel from the UK, Paul worked at the Embassy of Israel to the UK in the Public Affairs department, and as the Ambassador's speechwriter. He has a Masters degree in Middle East Politics from the University of London. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem - though he writes this blog in a personal capacity. He has lectured to a variety of groups on Israeli history and politics and his articles have been published in a variety of media outlets in Israel, the UK, the US and Canada.
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