Israel is at a critical crossroads.Dahlia Shendlin

IThe Israeli right wing is no stranger to political victories. Right-wing parties have ruled for the most part, each time, for more than 40 years. Benjamin Netanyahu Since 2009, he has won elections, euphoric supporters have rooted for King Bibi and losers have pessimistically predicted the end of democracy.

But Netanyahu’s sixth government End of 2022, surprisingly different. Early right-wing governments expanded settlements, annexed parts of the West Bank, deepened the rule of Jewish religious law over Israel’s public and private life, and ruled Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens. I just wanted to harass or intimidate . To do these things, the populist illiberal governments of the past decade have threatened to bind the judiciary, but their acerbicness has failed to bring about any significant reforms, other than judicial appointments of their choosing. The new government is no longer testing illiberal waters. It seeks to strangle itself in attacking the institutions of democratic governance. Israel’s direction looks like a cataclysm, challenging key allies, Western democracies and even Diaspora Jews.

Within a week of taking the oath of office, Justice Minister Yariv Levin was summoned by Netanyahu’s Likud party to proposed a radical set of reforms designed to end judicial independence. Since the coalition government has a majority in parliament, the Knesset has already passed the first reading of the bill, giving the coalition control over the appointment of the judiciary and the judiciary of Israel’s Basic Law (which functions as a form of constitution). It prohibits examination. The next step is a bill that would eradicate judicial review of the law and severely limit monitoring of such executive actions, while turning ministerial advisers into political loyalists.

Governments have offered fanciful justifications such as restoring democracy and restoring the separation of powers, but legislative initiatives are far more compelling. One bill would allow politicians convicted of corruption to hold cabinet posts, while another would prohibit the suspension of the prime minister for non-health-related reasons unless approved by the government. It consolidates the power of the prime minister. fantastic majority in the Knesset. This would be beneficial to Netanyahu. He was on trial in three corruption cases after citizens petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend Netanyahu, citing a conflict of interest. It is worth noting that even Israel’s core human rights law, the Basic Law, or human dignity and liberty, is not entrenched and can, in theory, be overruled by the simplest of majority votes.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Benjamin Netanyahu right at a ministerial meeting in Jerusalem on February 19, 2023. Photo: Abil Sultan/EPA

Beyond Netanyahu’s immediate interests, other coalition partners are pushing a militant illiberal and anti-minority policy and a tough ideological agenda to push for annexation. Israel recently passed a law to strip citizenship from Arab Israelis convicted of terrorism (designed not to apply to Jewish terrorists), death penalty for terroriststhe government agreed delegation of authority Over the transfer of Israeli settlers in the West Bank from governing occupied territories through the military to a new civilian minister within the defense ministry, lawyers say the move amounts to annexation. The government is unsentimental about Israel’s role as a refuge for the world’s Jews.Coalition members want bar immigration Clearly afraid of Jewish purity, to Israel for Jewish grandchildren.

Efforts to political capture extend beyond the judiciary.the government threatened to shut down My favorite public broadcaster, Suga-san (too independent). appoint a political bureau chief at the National Library.and appoint Yoshi Shelley, as Netanyahu’s loyalist and chief statistician (pending for now). With regard to certain nongovernmental human rights groups, the government plans to: tax them to extinction.

Israel’s leaders declare with the utmost confidence that they are carrying out the will of their voters. But something went wrong. Up to 100,000 Israeli citizens gathered in a series of demonstrations that drew an astonishing array of social and professional communities, including economists, tech entrepreneurs, health workers, environmentalists, women and LGBTQ+ groups, and anti-occupation activists. piled up on the streets. Before Mossad chief David Barnea, Authorized agency staff Demonstrate. Actors delivered “democracy story time” readings for children, constitutional scholars achieved star status, and their micro-videos on democracy went viral.

“Hawala was ablaze, and extremist Jewish vigilante groups rampaged through the town, burning buildings and cars and killing Palestinians.” Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters

Last Wednesday, after eight weeks of near-perfectly peaceful protests, protesters tried to block the main road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but it was on a workday rather than the usual weekend protests. Done. Police used water cannons and stun grenades, injuring nearly a dozen demonstrators.Last Sunday night in a Palestinian town Habara caught fire, following a Palestinian attack that killed two Jewish Israeli brothers earlier in the day, extremist vigilante Jews rampaged through town, burning buildings and cars and killing Palestinians. Many Israelis refer to the Hawala attack as a pogrom, with no further explanation. the next day, Palestinian killed A Jewish-Israeli American near the city of Jericho. These followed his February Israeli raids, 11 Palestinians killed in Nablus A cycle that began long before the government was formed but has only gotten worse has caused US concern.

Economic damage looms: Financial institutions warn that judicial reforms could scare investors and investors. downgrade Israel’s credit rating; high-tech companies withdrawal of fundsand the shekel depreciated sharply.

what happens? Netanyahu was once proud to be the guardian of a special bipartisan relationship with the United States, Mr. Security and Mr. Economy, and none of that seems to hold him back. . In contrast to nearly all other democracies, Israel Beyond the judicial power, there are no explicit restrictions on the executive power of the parliamentary majority. Despite the citizens’ instinctive defense of democracy, there is no legal requirement for the government to heed.

Both sides are locked with standoffs. About two years ago, a popular satirical show joked that Israel needed a civil war to settle its divisions, but now no one is laughing. A lot of people are scared. Beyond that extreme scenario, Israel has two paths for her. In one version, it pushes for democratization and moderate right-wing, centrist and left-wing elements create a newfound common cause to win the next election. We may not be able to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but we can preserve Israel’s institutions and international status.

Second, this government has abandoned even those democratic institutions it has, centralized its powers, and criticized many of Netanyahu’s famous friends, from Hungary’s Viktor Orban to the Middle East’s new authoritarian allies. At least that way Israel would be freed from pesky demands like upholding human rights and emancipating the Palestinian people. Freedom will not be in the picture for anyone.

Dahlia Scheindlin is a political analyst, policy fellow at Century International, and columnist for Haaretz.she lives in tel aviv

Do you have any comments on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of no more than 250 words for consideration for publication, please email us. Israel is at a critical crossroads.Dahlia Shendlin

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