It wouldn’t be the first time deep internal divisions have caused Israel to implode and opened the door to her defeat by external enemies.
Two thousand years ago, during the Great Jewish Revolt, the Romans were having a hard time putting down the small Jewish nation’s fight for freedom. Until the Jews starting fighting among themselves and the defense of Jerusalem fell apart from the inside.
Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett fears something similar is happening today, and evoked that New Testament-era history during a morning news interview with Channel 12 this week.
“A compromise must be reached,” stressed Bennett in regard to the crisis over the current government’s proposed judicial reform. “The people of Israel and also history will not forgive the politicians who bring us to the brink of civil war.”
Bennett called on both sides to accept President Isaac Herzog’s offer to mediate and his suggested outline for addressing the problems with Israel’s judicial system, and in particular its Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the government has begun the process of legislating its reforms, and left-wing Israelis continue to take to the streets in large numbers in protest.
For Bennett, it’s just a matter of time before something tragic happens and the powder keg is ignited.
“I am very afraid that in one of the next demonstrations there will be roadblocks, someone will get out of the car and beatings will begin. From there, we will end up with bloodshed. It must not come to that,” he pleaded. “It depends on both the government and the opposition. The majority of the people want judicial reform, but they want it via negotiation and compromise – not in the destruction of the current system.”
Internal strife has long been a weakness of the nation of Israel. Bennett said today he feels like he is “watching a replay of how we destroyed the country 2,000 years ago. I do not intend to tell my children that we destroyed this wonderful movement, the Zionist enterprise, just because one side or the other didn’t receive enough votes.”
Bennett said he is confident that if coalition and opposition leaders sat privately with the president, in goodwill, they could easily reach a compromise.
The one problem with that point of view, however, is the person of Benjamin Netanyahu. For many in the opposition, including its leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, the threat to Israel’s democracy isn’t so much the proposed policy changes. It’s Netanyahu himself. And they’ve said as much, repeatedly.
For this reason, Lapid is now setting preconditions on negotiating with the coalition over judicial reform. He wants all legislation on the matter halted for two months. Then he’ll talk. The move is designed to make it look like he defeated Netanyahu at his own game, which of course Netanyahu will never agree to.
And so we are back at square one.
In this way, the real threat facing Israel’s democracy today is the Left’s unquenchable hatred for Netanyahu, even as he remains widely popular with right-wing voters, who make up a majority of the Israeli electorate.
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