Who is right in this dispute, those who want to radically reform Israel’s judicial system, or those trying to overthrow Israel’s government? The right-wing governing coalition wants to overhaul the left-leaning courts and create a more democratic Israel. This is their view of the situation. Of course, the left sees things differently, and believes it must confront the right-wing coalition under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lest he snatch too much power and Israel descend into fascism.
The protesters, who take to the streets weekly against the national-religious governing coalition and block strategic traffic arteries around the country, really believe that a right-wing power grab is underway. They fear the end of Israeli democracy in the Holy Land. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re right, the fear of dictatorship is pushing people into the streets. The government and its constituents see the whole situation differently. In their view, Israel is facing an attempted coup financed by key left-wing figures in politics and business.
The so-called “left-wing elite” in Israel simply cannot come to terms with the recent election results. What they lost in the democratic elections in November 2022, they seek to win back through popular resistance. The excuse they use to get people onto the streets is the judicial reform plan Netanyahu’s government is pushing through without consulting the opposition. This assessment can be heard from almost all right-wing and religious politicians in the Knesset.
Right-wing TV commentator Shlomo Bardugo is certain that about 80 million euros were pumped into the left-wing protests. “This is without the ads in the Israeli media calling on people to join the protests,” Bardugo added in remarks to Channel 14. In his view, left-wing protest movements get the ads for free, because the success of the coup is also in the interest of Israel’s left-wing media. “Today we all understand that these are not regular protests, this is a coup attempt. As I said before the elections, the left do not want us to be in government. And that’s the whole story!”
The problem is, one blames the next and neither listens to the other. There is simply no dialogue between Israel’s two dominant political tribes. Everyone insists on their own way. The coalition is pushing through judicial reform regardless of the opposition. It is willing to negotiate with the opposition on the matter, but parallel to the legislative process. The coalition isn’t prepared to pause legislation on reform, but the opposition insists it must in order to have real negotiations. As a result, Israeli society is crumbling and an unprecedented level of hostility has erupted among the people. Responsibility for this lies with politicians on both sides of the issue.
The national-religious government has a unique opportunity to reshape the system in Israel, and they don’t want to miss it. But that’s exactly what the opposition is afraid of. The opposition fears that the right-wing government will upset the balance of powers between Israel’s legislative (Knesset), executive (government) and judiciary (Supreme Court). The right says this is absolutely necessary because Israel’s judiciary has made itself more powerful than the executive and legislature.
This is the crux of the matter between the two worldviews in the Jewish state. In order to keep the biblical promises alive, the judiciary must be weakened, because its left-liberal, human rights-focused agenda disrupts the Zionist vision from the perspective of right-wing and religious Jews. Opponents see it differently. When the separation of powers is broken, all power falls into the hands of a national right-wing government that can appoint and remove judges.
Whichever side of the debate one falls on, the situation has clearly become dangerous.
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