Saturday, July 8, 2023

The Miracle and the Precipice

  (Originally published in The Times of Israel)

"In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles." Ben Gurion 1956.

It may not have risen to miracle status, but something virtually unheard of in today's world,  has happened in Israel.  Despite the current Israeli governing coalition having a 64-member majority, despite the Israeli system missing a lot of the avenues for public influence that the U.S. and other democracies have (e.g. legislative districts, two houses), hundreds of thousands if not over a million Israelis came together peacefully for six months to successfully stop legislation that would severely cripple Israel's world-respected judicial system and undermine its vibrant, albeit flawed, democracy.

In those six months of demonstrations not one person died, maybe a couple were injured, and property damage was minimal.  Compare that to Myanmar, Paris, many parts of Africa, the United States of America. Dissertations will someday be written about this.  And yet the world, including America and American Jews, hardly noted it.

The peacefulness and Israel's democracy are now both on the precipice of being lost.  Faced with massive opposition threatening to bring the country to a standstill, Prime Minister Netanyahu put the brakes on the proponents' original plan to jam through the massive assault on Israel's democracy in one fell swoop.  The intensity of the opposition naturally dissipated somewhat.

Now, Netanahu and the drivers behind the anti-judiciary movement, apparently thinking that the opposition would not be able to regain its prior strength and support, have opted to piecemeal the proposals.

On Tuesday the bill that would repeal the "reasonableness" standard used to adjudicate government agencies' administrative decisions passed out of committee and to the Knesset for its first of the three readings.

Having recently seen its candidate for head of the Bar Association, a convicted criminal, overwhelmingly defeated by an outspoken opponent of the assault on the judiciary, the proponents of the attack passed  a preliminary reading of legislation to eliminate the Bar Association including, of course, its role in the judicial selection process.

As former Likud member, Justice Minister, and now opposition Knesset member Gideon Sa'ar, a long-time advocate of thoughtful, reasonable judicial reform, said, "Those who cancel the elections in the Bar Association because they do not like the results, will not hesitate to cancel the results of the Knesset elections one day."

And just days after telling the Wall Street Journal that the proposal to allow the Knesset to override a court's decision on legislation was off the table--"I threw that out… it’s out”--, he told some angry Cabinet members in a private meeting that it was not completely out.