Ever since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to “reform” Israel’s Supreme Court (reform as in strip it of power) there have been widespread and large protests. For a while it seemed to have worked as he “suspended” his plans, but more recently he decided he was moving ahead. The protests have grown, and not just from people in the streets.
Recently over a thousand reservists in the Israeli Air Force signed a letter stating they would not serve a dictatorship and would refuse call ups to duty.
Since then over 10,000 reservists in the Israeli Defense Force have signed a similar letter.
The protests in the streets have grown to the point where the govt. is resorting to water cannons to disperse them.
And most recently over a thousand doctors walked off the job.
UPDATE: Measurable damage is taking place with Israel’s economy, which you can read about in this linked LA Times article.
I find the part about their military particularly instructive. Look, part of the reason I hesitated to tackle this subject at all is a personal thing and it would take too long to get into it here. But let’s just say as a Marine and of 1980s vintage the interactions with the “vaunted” Israeli forces and my Marine Corps were shall we say “testy” at best. Still, even if they can’t project power even fifty miles outside their own border Israeli troops have proven, as have troops in so many other places in so many wars proven formidable indeed when defending their home soil. This growing revolt with the reserves is showing signs of spreading, and not just with reservists. It poses very real concerns about that country’s defense posture. That’s one BFD.
Add in the other things, and the prospect of a public union strike being talked about and it’s clear. Israel is in the midst of a growing crisis. There has been fierce resistance to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to strip power from the Israeli Supreme Court – and it’s growing. Because many believe it puts them on a path to dictatorship. Add in that “Bibi” has long face corruption charges but managed to hang on to power, some eerie parallels can be drawn between him and Trump. As in a politician who needs to be the top official with all the protections of that office to shield himself from investigation and even (if it comes to that) prosecution.
Am I the only one who sees David Frum’s grim prediction that if the GOP can’t win at the ballot box they won’t abandon their overly conservative ideals but will instead abandon Democracy being played out in Israel? Am I the only one who sees a striking similarity to the corrupt Trump and GOP that believes by god even if the people at-large don’t agree THEY should rule, and the corrupt Netanyahu and Likud Party that believes the same thing?
During the past week here in the U.S. we’ve learned of Trump’s plan to take over all three branches of our government, effectively making himself a dictator. Some argue that by stripping the Israeli courts of power and allowing the Knesset to set aside any of their rulings by a simple majority vote Netanyahu is aiming for the same end. There’s also something else that one needs to take into consideration:
Israel doesn’t have a Constitution!
You read that right. Here’s a fair summary from Wikipedia. In particular there is this passage from the entry:
“According to Israel’s Declaration of Independence of 14 May 1948, a constituent assembly should have prepared a constitution by 1 October 1948. The delay and the eventual decision on 13 June 1950 to legislate a constitution chapter by chapter, resulted primarily from the inability of different groups in Israeli society to agree on the purpose of the state, on the state’s identity, and on a long-term vision. Another factor was the opposition of David Ben-Gurion (Prime Minister 1958-1954 and 1955-1963), who thought that a formal written constitution would allow the Israeli Supreme Court to overrule his socialist policies.”
So in effect, Israel never followed it’s own founding principle regarding the governance of the new country. Over time thirteen Basic Laws would become an informal Constitution, but pushes for a formal one in the past have fallen short. However, in Israel as in other representative democracies an independent judicial system has been the bulwark against overreach by the rest of the government. History teaches us that when democracies lose an independent judiciary it’s game over. And that is what Netanyahu and his far right Likud Party intend to do.
He/they had a helluva time forming a working government to begin with. Our system is messy but so are Parliamentary ones. In my view, since the Party that puts together the government after elections chooses the Prime Minister who will run things it makes an independent judiciary and especially Supreme Court all the more crucial. But again, some serious negotiating with other Parties was necessary for Netanyahu and the Likud Party to put together their coalition. For the life of me I can’t understand why those other Parties have delivered enough votes to pass this first step of stripping their Supreme Court of power.
Netanyahu is a zealot, and possessed of a self-righteousness that will cause him to turn around and screw every other Party the same way Trump will throw anyone under the bus to acquire and hold on to power!
So Israel is in chaos. Which is getting worse by the day. If you haven’t been keeping an eye on this you should. At the risk of sticking my head into the lion’s mouth and opening myself to charges of anti-Semitism state that the U.S. in particular has had a complicated relationship with Israel from the time of their announcement of the State of Israel. And that Israel has taken many actions that have made our own position in the world more complicated than it should be because we have to back their actions no matter what.
So often the argument stopper is that they’re the only democratic country in the region. What if they do slide into dictatorship? What then? We used to think it was impossible it could happen in THIS country. Yet we learned that despite a strong Constitution and system of checks and balances we are more vulnerable than most of us ever believed possible. Israel doesn’t have anywhere near the institutional stability we have so often had so don’t think they too aren’t vulnerable to a takeover by a hard right-wing dictator. And should it happen the consequences could be explosive in world politics.
If you haven’t been keeping an eye on this you should start. Trust me when I say it’s going to become a huge political issue in this country and soon. I for one fear what that will mean.