Talk of “civil war” is headlining nearly every media broadcast in Israel these days. And while it might’ve started as mere political rhetoric, some fear it could soon become a reality.
Why it matters: The Jewish people are no strangers to civil war. Internal strife has torn Israel in two and led to its downfall more than once in the nation’s long history.
- During the times of the biblical judges, the Tribes of Israel fought numerous times against one another.
- King Saul and his army famously pursued and fought the men of Judah who followed David.
- King David had to fight a war against his own son, Absalom.
- Following the death of King Solomon, the nation was plunged into civil war resulting in its political division into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
- During the time of the Hasmoneans (Israel’s “second kingdom”), a civil war resulted in the Kingdom of Judah effectively being absorbed into the Roman Empire.
- Internal strife between competing factions during the Great Jewish Revolt crippled Israel’s ability to fight the Romans, and resulted in the utter destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
Many believed that modern democracy was the key to avoiding a repeat of this fate in what’s seen as Israel’s “third kingdom.” But it now seems democracy itself could be the trigger.
Lower the flames
Israel President Isaac Herzog on Tuesday urged all sides to “lower the flames” and stop talking in such fatalist terms when criticizing their political opponents.
In a lengthy Hebrew-language Twitter thread, Herzog wrote:
“During recent days, I have held discussions with many parties and I am doing everything in order to create a respectful atmosphere and dialogue, in the hopes of reaching a broad understanding. I appeal to you, elected officials and citizens of Israel from the entire public and political spectrum: Show restraint and responsibility. We must calm the spirits and lower the flames.
“We have no other country.”
ערכי מגילת העצמאות הם המצפן של מדינתנו – לא אתן לפגוע בהם. זו תקופה רגישה ונפיצה בציבוריות הישראלית. אני ער לקולות הנשמעים מכאן ומכאן, ולכל הכאבים, הדאגות והחרדות. זה לא נעלם מעיני ומעסיק אותי ללא הפסקה.
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) January 10, 2023
Opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz have warned that the judicial reforms and other proposed policies of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government will lead to “civil war.”
And that seems not to have been a prediction, but rather a threat, as Gantz then urged Israelis to take to the streets and “make the nation tremble.”
Zvika Fogel, a member of the coalition’s far-right Jewish Power party then suggested that Lapid and Gantz be arrested for fomenting insurrection.
“They are talking about war. If they were calling to protest I’d give them every right to protest. But they’re talking in terms of me being an enemy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s treason against the state,” Fogel told the Kan public broadcaster.
Netanyahu responded by reminding Fogel that opposition politicians are not arrested in a democracy, but he also slammed Lapid and Gantz for their “unacceptable” and “dangerous” rhetoric against Israel’s democratically-elected government.
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