Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. / HAIM ZACH/GPO

Editorial: Israel is on the cusp of civil war

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Editorial: Israel is on the cusp of civil war

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. / HAIM ZACH/GPO

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

So reads a core excerpt of Israel’s Declaration of Independence signed on May 14, 1948 by the country’s founders, including David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir.

Now, nearly 75 years after that historic signing, Israel faces perhaps its greatest challenge, and it does not come from a hostile neighboring country. Since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cobbled together a majority to create a new government, he has placed Israel’s democracy on the line – working with Knesset members to gut the current judicial system by allowing the coalition complete control over all judicial appointments. It would essentially allow the Knesset to override Supreme Court decisions, and give politicians greater power over judicial appointments. The current ultra-religious government includes convicted felon Rabbi Aryeh Deri of the Shas Party, and Meir Kahane acolytes and ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir (who has been arrested seven times) and Bezalel Smotrich (who was arrested in 2005 on suspicion of trying to blow up the Tel Aviv highway). These religious zealots are also working with Netanyahu to curtail freedom of speech, remove LGBTQ protections, eliminate the country’s public broadcasting TV channel and to introduce legislation that would make the country more religious.

For the last eight weeks, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have held massive pro-democracy rallies and have taken to the streets in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and outside of the Knesset. While Netanyahu has called the protesters “anarchists,” the rallies had been peaceful until this week, when police attacked them with stun grenades and water cannons. Meanwhile, after two Jews were murdered in the northern West Bank this week, a mob of 400 Israelis attacked an Arab village, burning cars and homes. A Palestinian was also killed. Some of the settlers even stoned Israeli soldiers, and tried to ram a soldier. By mid-week, most of the settlers who had been arrested were released, and Smotrich, the government minister, was calling for Israel to “wipe out” the Palestinian city.

All of this feeds into the hands of Israel’s enemies – from armed Palestinians in the West Bank, to Hamas in Gaza; Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran, which is just days away from creating a nuclear bomb. For the sake of Israel, and the Jewish Diaspora, Netanyahu must immediately drop his vision to eliminate the country’s democracy and focus on the country’s external threats. If he holds firm, the country could move toward a civil war. Θ

One Response

  1. There must be judicial reform in Israel!
    Currently the Supreme Ct has the power to abolish any legislation it does not like passed by the Knesset The Knesset is the people’s house and represents the will of the people! This is what Israelis voted for and it should be respected!
    Imagine if our Supreme Ct knocked down laws passed by our Congress because they did not approve of them! Israeli Supreme Ct yields too much power and there must be a system of checks and balances! Judicial reform must take place and should be negotiated by all parties as stated by President Herzog!

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