Stifling supporters of the judicial overhaul is a danger to democracy

Opinion: While a majority of the public in Israel opposes the government's plan, they should listen to the political majority that supports it and try to reach a compromise for both sides to avoid a much darker outcome
Ben-Dror Yemini|
The judicial overhaul is dead. Israel won’t be a dictatorship. The protest against it inside and outside of Israel was likely the most successful and significant one since the state was founded.
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However, we must be cautious of a victory that’s too great. Because millions of Israelis who support a change in the judicial system may feel defeated. Their criticisms against the oligarchy, both justified and not, are here to stay.
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ההפגנה בתל אביב
ההפגנה בתל אביב
Protestors against the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv
(Photo: Reuters)
And, if they feel that the same oligarchy, who lost in the elections, is defeating them again, they will lose all trust in democracy. They will feel as if they voted for one thing and received the opposite. It’s better for this not to happen.
At the stage we’re in, the halt to the proposed legislation isn’t a victory for the oligarchy. It’s a victory of a majority who thought, and rightly so, that the proposals led by Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee Chairman Simcha Rothman were very frightening.
A line of prominent right-wing figures joined the protest or expressed opposition to the legislation. Moshe Ya'alon, Limor Livnat, Yaakov Amidror, and Gershon Cohen, in addition to central Likud figures like Haim Bibas, aren’t part of the oligarchy.
They opposed the continuation of the legislation because they too feared political recklessness. And when the judicial overhaul is just one part of the total surrender to the ultra-Orthodox and right-wing blocs - then the judicial oligarchy, created by former Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak, seems much better in comparison.
But supporters of the judicial overhaul are still a majority in Israel. It would be self-deception to only see the vulgar speakers among the overhaul's supporters. Because things began even before Levin’s plan.
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ישיבת הממשלה
ישיבת הממשלה
Yariv Levin and Benjamin Netanyahu
(Photo: Yonatan Sindel)
Many good people criticized the judiciary before. The right has expertise in presenting valid points along with incorrect conclusions and plans. The right is correct in its claim that withdrawing from the West Bank will lead to the takeover of Hamas or Islamic Jihad. But is one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean a solution? Of course not.
The protest isn’t subsiding, it continues. However, it’s reaching a dangerous point because barring any changes to the judicial system will be a Pyrrhic victory. It will only serve to frustrate those demanding an overhaul.
Instead of Levin and Rothman, we may soon end up with such firebrands as Shlomo Karhi and Tally Gotliv. With our weak collective memory, we’ve forgotten that recent election campaigns weren’t about Israeli settlements or Palestinians; they were mainly driven by the feeling that the judiciary is persecuting Benjamin Netanyahu.
This sentiment is where people began worshipping him, and that's where the "Just not Bibi" protest began. Indictments filed against him didn’t lower his popularity, quite the opposite. This public that supports Netanyahu isn’t disappearing; it still exists.
We live in interesting times. On the one hand, the coalition has a majority to pass any legislation, including draconian laws. On the other hand, the protest has a public majority, and this majority knows that draconian legislation works against national interests. They also know that an overhaul, even before it happens, affects relations with Israel’s most important ally, the U.S.
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הפגנת תמיכה במהפכה המשפטית בנתניה
הפגנת תמיכה במהפכה המשפטית בנתניה
Protesters supporting the judicial overhaul
(Photo: Dana Kopel)
Moreover, this majority knows the impacts of such a scenario on the economy, which current data already supports. However, continuing down the same lane as before isn’t an option anymore.
The alternative is a fair judicial overhaul with broad consensus. And if there’s no compromise, the frustration of the overhaul’s supporters will only grow, and soon turn to anger.
The situation isn’t an easy one for those pushing for compromise. The public discourse, on all sides, mainly gives a stage to radical voices. Not only on social media, but even leading television channels mostly platform those opposing a compromise.
All of the polls indicate a consistent trend: a majority of the public supports dialogue on the overhaul, which also means a compromise. However, the media shows the opposite. Much more time is given to extreme voices, and much less to compromise supporters.
We need to listen to the voices of those who ask for the reasons Israel rushed into another election. What was the point? Even if we don’t like the way they sound, we should listen to their criticism.
The longer nothing changes, the stronger the anger will become, anger that will haunt us. Therefore, it‘s better to reach a compromise now, not to harm democracy, but to strengthen it.
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