דורון נחמיה
Doron Nehemia
Photo: Sigal Kultun
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

No, Israel is not becoming a dictatorship

Opinion: Netanyahu is much weaker than he was a year ago and any claims of us falling into the grip of an authoritarian leader are made by fools or political opportunists; nothing in the country does or ever did remotely resemble a dictatorship

Doron Nehemia |
Published: 10.09.20 , 18:11
A sizable part of Israel's population is currently claiming that the country is either a dictatorship or on the way to becoming one.
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  • These claims are being made not only in the heat of the moment during protests, but also in newspaper columns and by more rational-minded people.
    Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Reuters)
    These claims are a sign of disproportionate hysteria at best and embarrassing ignorance at worst.
    The term “dictatorship” means that one person or a few have control over every aspect of the government - the cabinet, the Knesset, the courts, the media and so on.
    Such a situation is undeniably one in which the few can exert their power over the many. Nothing in Israel even remotely resembles such a situation, and I doubt there ever was a period that did.
     הפגנה של ה"קריים מיניסטר" והדגלים השחורים נגד ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו בבלפור הפגנה של ה"קריים מיניסטר" והדגלים השחורים נגד ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו בבלפור
    Anti-Netanyahu protests in Jerusalem
    (Photo: AFP)
    Not only does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not control the judiciary, but for years he has thwarted any attempt to reform it in order to balance its powers with the other branches of government.
    Nor does Netanyahu have absolute control over the Knesset, as shown by the three rounds of elections he needed to form this hot mess of a coalition that all but clips his wings with its rotation agreement.
    Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and PM Benjamin Netanyahu Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) and PM Benjamin Netanyahu
    Coalition partners of equal authority: Benny Gantz, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: Tal Shahar)
    Netanyahu doesn’t even control the government he heads. This can be seen in the coalition agreement that forces him to hand over equal authority to Benny Gantz's Blue & White party, which has veto rights over any and all issues.
    Even claims that the emergency health regulations restricting protests are a creeping trend toward dictatorship have allowed hysteria to overshadow the facts.
    When the government began tackling the coronavirus pandemic, the High Court of Justice acted to limit its power to impose restrictions, mainly due to considerations of freedom of the press.
    Protesters block a main road during a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his residence in Jerusalem Protesters block a main road during a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his residence in Jerusalem
    Protesters block a main road during a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his residence in Jerusalem
    (Photo: AP)
    Some of the government's powers were delegated to Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee, and any restrictions on gatherings - including demonstrations - most first secure its approval.
    The executive branch has less power today than it had six months ago, and the prime minister is more limited than he was a year ago, as he is subject to a coalition agreement that binds his actions and makes him subordinate to his coalition partners.
    Unlike in the past, Netanyahu's ability to appoint senior officials is also limited. He also failed to pass minor restrictions like closing down gyms due to the intervention of the Knesset's Coronavirus Committee (headed by MK Yifat Shasha-Biton of his own Likud party), which continues to act independently.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Yifat Shasha-Biton
    (Photos: Alex Kolomoisky, the Knesset)
    Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who is a close associate of Netanyahu, could not even present a legal document on his behalf, as the attorney general, who regularly ties the government's hands on various matters, blocked the move.
    Netanyahu of 2020 is weaker than ever before.
    Granted, there are restrictions on demonstrations, but the same is true in most of Europe. Is Norway a dictatorship? How about Switzerland or France?
    These Knesset-approved restrictions have nothing to do with a dictatorship, except perhaps in the fever dreams of a few politically motivated doom prophets.
     Israeli police uses water canon to disperse people during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu In Jerusalem Israeli police uses water canon to disperse people during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu In Jerusalem
    Police use a water cannon to disperse protesters during a demonstration against Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem
    (Photo: AP)
    Allegations that Israel is a dictatorship are as credible as looking at the midday sun and announcing it is nighttime.
    Comparisons between Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin or Recep Tayyip Erdogan do not say much about the prime minister, but do say a lot about the ignorance of those who use such analogies. It’s mainly cheap propaganda nurtured by a few political elements who seek to brainwash the public.
    There are relevant allegations against the government's handling of the pandemic, but seeking a dictatorship is not one of them.
    Such claims are not only absurd, they are harmful. They serve to create violent rhetoric that negates any effective discussion. They lower the level of discourse to nothing more than slogans without substance.
    The claims of dictatorship are made by fools and political opportunists, not those who wish to have a true, relevant discussion about the current state of affairs.

    Attorney Doron Nehemia is one of the founders of Nativ BaLikud, an organization seeking to promote a 'national and liberal agenda' within the Likud party
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