Bibi and the Golden Calf

 


One of the disturbing things about watching the judiciary food fight in Israel is that the supporters of the most extreme reform proposals act as though those changes were inscribed on a tablet by God that Bibi brought down from Sinai, and that all of the protesters are worshiping a golden calf.

I’m not concerned that Israeli democracy is in danger, because what I am watching is the best of the democratic nature of Israel in the streets, where hundreds of thousands of citizens believe they are acting to protect their democracy.

Bibi’s loyal supporters dismiss the protests as mob rule. No, it’s called the democratic right to protest against governmental actions that demonstrators see as detrimental to the nation, in the hope of persuading their leaders to heed their concerns. And it may finally be working — Bibi’s now ex-defense minister told Netanyahu he is endangering the nation’s security, economic officials have warned him that he is ruining the economy, and world leaders have said he is weakening bilateral relations. If not for the demonstrators, the government would already have rammed through reforms that include the override clause, which even one of the architects of reform calls “stupid.”

Still, some devotees believe what they think was written on those tablets. Some bloviate in their figurative MIGA hats, accusing protesters of being traitors and rioters funded by the New Israel Fund, George Soros, and the Biden administration.

Do protestors want a different government? Of course — which is also their right when the existing government is acting contrary to their interests.

Do they get to overturn the election? Nope. But they can do what oppositions typically do and make it difficult for the government to adopt positions they don’t like. Recall that Netanyahu opposed everything the previous government proposed, including laws he supported, in his effort to bring about its collapse. He also used all means to fight the government, from smearing it for including an Arab party that he had negotiated with, to inciting his supporters against it.

I also remember that Netanyahu and his supporters had no qualms about mobilizing demonstrators against the Oslo Accords and inciting the “mob” against Yitzhak Rabin to bring down that government.

After several weeks of being unable to marshal any support in the streets, the right finally managed to turn out a large number of demonstrators in Jerusalem. Reportedly, some were being bused in from the West Bank, using taxpayer funds. Meanwhile, the opposition gained additional momentum when the Histadrut went on strike, universities closed, the airport was shut down, and health professionals stayed away from their jobs.

To “avoid a civil war,” Netanyahu finally agreed to delay the reforms in order to allow time for negotiations. He did this even as his government went ahead with votes to alter how justices are chosen in what the Times of Israel said would “heavily politicize the Judicial Selection Committee and give the coalition almost complete control over the appointment of judges.”

Meanwhile, American Jews have every right to express their views, and the Israeli government is entitled to ignore them. Unlike some armchair Jewish quarterbacks in the United States, I don’t think I have a say in the future of Israel‘s judiciary. My son, who lives there, does. Those who believe Israel needs to be saved from itself can follow his example and make aliyah and use their votes to make a difference.

I believed that Netanyahu would ultimately come around to prevent the most extreme members of his cabinet from wreaking havoc. And he has repeatedly tried to reassure people that LGBT rights and other civil rights are safe under his leadership. There is understandable skepticism given that many Israelis believe that King Bibi’s primary concern is to keep himself out of jail, like the House of Saud prioritizing keeping its royal head on its shoulders.

Still, on the principal threat to Israel, Netanyahu remains steadfast. He is committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, his determination to give the finger to critics, including the leaders of Israel’s closest allies in Washington, London, Paris, and Bonn, does not make it easier to gain supporters. The revolt over the judicial reforms by members of the IDF, including pilots who could be needed to attack Iran, is giving the mullahs confidence that Israel is disintegrating on its own. I suspect their false bravado will be forgotten when their nuclear facilities are destroyed in the not-too-distant future.

While I have written several times about the problems of Biden’s policy toward the Middle East and Israel, Netanyahu’s seeming determination to do everything possible to upset the Biden administration is unwise. He reportedly got an earful from the president in a recent call, and Biden’s refusal to invite Netanyahu to the White House until he agreed to the pause indicates how unhappy he was with the direction Netanyahu is taking.

And it’s not just about the judiciary; almost every day, someone in the government says or does something unnecessarily incendiary, such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich calling for the eradication of a Palestinian town, Minister of Transportation Miri Regev insulting the UAE, and ultra-Orthodox members of the coalition pushing legislation that would punish Christian attempts to solicit conversion with imprisonment.

It’s one thing for the whole world to be wrong, as it usually is regarding Israel, and another to go out of your way to alienate the world. So far, the Netanyahu government has upset a good proportion of the Israeli population, including members of the IDF and security services, evangelical Christians, Diaspora Jews, Jordan, the UAE, France, Britain, Germany, pro-Israel Democrats in Congress, and the Biden administration.

Enemies don’t need to compare Israel to South Africa; the Netanyahu government is doing its best to make Israel a pariah.

Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on US.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby,” “Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”

 

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