The war of attrition on Israel's democracy has begun

Opinion: Instead of leading, Netanyahu allowed Israel to be led into an abyss that will continue to tear apart Israeli society until a democratic consensus is reached
The government dangled over an abyss. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked right and left, at Yoav Gallant and Yariv Levin. His eyes darted back and forth. Then the coalition joined hands and jumped.
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And this time everything was captured on film. Netanyahu's nervous walk. His attempts to escape his security minister who was following him around the Knesset plenum. The heated, fierce argument between the de facto Prime Minister Levin and Gallant, who pleaded: "Give me something to work with."
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מפגינים ומפגינות בירושלים
מפגינים ומפגינות בירושלים
Protestor against the judicial overhaul in Jerusalem gets hit with a water cannon
(Photo: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters)
The consultations with Aryeh Deri, the phone calls, the attempt to dig out some last-minute compromise, something that could bypass the far-right faction – Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, and Levin – that hijacked Israel's government.
Everything was clearly seen, and everyone in Israel can watch it, and historians will record and document it: This is how the very successful Israeli nation marched along an incomprehensible path of recklessness.
Netanyahu's weakness is common knowledge. He’s unable to make a real decision and fears the extremists within his coalition. He’s the only person in Israel who believes Ben-Gvir and Levin’s empty threats. The coalition is completely detached from what is happening on the streets.
And how could it not be? The prime minister, in an appalling act of neglect of Israel’s security, didn't even bother to convene the cabinet to receive an honest report from the Israel Defense Forces about the state of the military and its reserves.
Not only did he avoid doing so, but he also refused to meet with the IDF chief of staff, who requested to see him before the vote - to personally present to him the implications of the vote on Israel's readiness for war.
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מליאת הכנסת
מליאת הכנסת
Benjamin Netanyahu fears the extremists within his coalition
(Photo: Amir Cohen, Reuters)
David Amsalem’s poisonous populism, along with Smotrich's fundamentalism and Levin's vindictiveness, are the components that finally consumed the ethos of Israel’s security.
Lies will be told in vain. But here are some truths: Those who take to the streets to defend Israeli democracy are good, loyal citizens who are dedicated to their country and the values of Zionism. Volunteer-based reserve units can’t obligate officers and soldiers to volunteer.
These officers and soldiers enlisteded and served a Jewish and democratic state with dedication while risking their lives. However, the proposed judicial overhaul, as presented by Levin and Simcha Rothman, will turn Israel into an authoritarian state similar to Turkey.
The reasonableness standard, as Levin, Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir put it, isn’t all there is to change; other laws will follow, starting with a takeover of the judicial selection committee. At any given moment, the coalition had the opportunity to commit to passing the reasonableness clause, and any other legislation only with a wide consensus.
Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid agreed to it. Netanyahu refused. Lapid also agreed to a 15-month halt to the legislation, for the sake of finding compromise. Later, this request would be reduced to only 12 months. Netanyahu didn’t agree to anything, not really. He was afraid.
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בני גנץ ויאיר לפיד בהצהרה
בני גנץ ויאיר לפיד בהצהרה
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid agreed to certain conditions in order to achieve compromise
(Photo: Shalev Shalom)
Many people are now filled with despair and deep depression. To them, I say: The battle for democracy will be long and full of obstacles. This isn’t the end, it’s merely the beginning. To save democracy from those who seek to harm it, we’ll need patience, resilience, and an understanding that we won't achieve grand moments of triumph and clear victories.
What does that mean? It means delaying the next law, holding back regulations, appealing to the Supreme Court, demonstrating, compromising where possible (not compromising on democracy, but on other matters), not losing hope, and certainly not giving up on the need to persuade, discuss and reach agreements.
It took Yariv Levin half a year to pass the first law, and he passed it in such an extreme version that the Supreme Court may intervene. This delay happened thanks to the protest, the government’s foolishness, and the various Likud supporters who didn’t support the overhaul in the polls.
The IDF chief of staff, head of the Shin Bet, and Mossad chief are all committed to the rule of law in Israel, as is the majority of the public. Perhaps that will change, but there’s no point in premature despair; we should be looking to the future.
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הפגנה בתל אביב
הפגנה בתל אביב
Protesters in Tel Aviv
(Photo: ACK GUEZ / AFP)
There are those who push to resign from their jobs and leave the country for ideological reasons. Those who fight for the fate of a nation don’t easily give up their positions in the Knesset, the government, public service,and, yes, also in the military.
No one will pursue those who leave, moral and good as they may be; their positions will be filled shortly by regime loyalists. Transferring positions of power to those who want an anti-democratic regime change will only serve to strengthen them.
So, what’s the silver lining? History won’t remember Israelis as ones standing on the sidelines and watching indifferently while their freedoms were stolen and their democracy trampled. The solidarity forged here in recent months is the broadest Israel has ever seen in its history. A battle of attrition for Israel’s democracy has begun.
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