Political extremists failed to grasp the seriousness of the moment

Opinion: Our proposed compromise legislation that was acceptable to some in the protest movement, labor and business leaders who presented it to the prime minister was rejected, serving political extremists victory and the country defeat
Prof. Yedidia Stern, Raz Nizri|
A week ago, we proposed on these pages, our concrete proposal for a revision to the coalition's bill to limit the reasonability clause, curbing the ability of the Supreme Court to rule on decisions taken by the government. Our proposal was adopted by some who were attempting to bring about a broad agreement between positions, ahead of the vote.
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But those efforts failed, as did other compromise proposals and the bill, as it was written by the coalition passed its final reading on Monday and became law.
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מליאת הכנסת
מליאת הכנסת
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Education Minister Yoav Kisch, Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Yariv Levin
(Photo: Maya Alleruzzo/AP)
The main tenants of our proposal which would have seen a far less extreme bill, was acceptable to both the opposition and members of the coalition. Its failure can be attributed to the deep suspicion and lack of trust between the sides.
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מליאת הכנסת
מליאת הכנסת
Coalition members celebrate the passage of the reasonability bill
(Photo: Twitter)
Proof of such mistrust was exhibited when representatives of the coalition and the opposition inquired after the extent of their opponents' concessions. We discovered that it was not the future of the country, that was front of mind. Our political leaders could not muster the courage to join together and seek compromise. The fracture is real. Our disappointment and frustration only grew in the final hours leading up to the vote, when efforts were still underway to bring a compromise bill to the plenum. The distrust was victorious while the country was defeated.
On the way, we found some flickers of light. We found a wealth of goodwill and responsibility among many, some in the public protests against the government. Israel's business leadership and the Histadrut labor union, who adopted our compromise bill, formally submitted it to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and urged his political associates to support it. We also found many among Israel's citizens, from all political stripes who approached us to express their support for our initiative and their hope that it would be accepted.
Professor Yedidia Stern Professor Yedidia Stern Photo: Israel Institute for Democracy

But not surprising to us and a source of pain was the inability of those in the political extremes to recognize the seriousness of the hour and to step back from their purist positions. Their automatic and unfounded statements, that reject in advance any possible agreements, their declaration that there can not be a half-democracy, is intellectual folly and a knee-jerk rejection of compromise in the name of radicalism. They take the name of democracy in vain. It seems extremism can be found not only among ultra-orthodox religious sects. It lives in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, as well.
But at the same time, the claim that the will of the people was expressed in the election results is also lacking any basic truth. It only shows a deep routed misunderstanding of the democratic rules that limit the rule of the majority, certainly when it comes to fundamental changes in the method of governance. Those require broad agreement.
The bill passed by the Knesset on Monday is in contradiction with the will of a majority of Israelis, as shown in all public opinion polls over the past months. One such poll found that one-third of Likud voters are in favor of changes to Israel's judiciary but only in a broad agreement. The Knesset's formal majority defeated the real will of the people.
עו"ד רז ניזרי בכנס משפט ציבורי לשנת 2018Raz NizriPhoto: Shamir Elbaz
As Jews gather to mourn the destruction of the Jewish Temple on Tisha B'Av, our terrible DNA which has caused us division since biblical times, now metastasized and has spread into the most important Jewish revival of the last century, the Zionist movement and the independent state of Israel.
In this round, the extremists emerged victorious, but we must not despair. Agreement and compromise will ultimately win. Israel must be healed.
  • Prof. Yedidia Stern is the president of the Jewish People Policy Institute and a law professor (emeritus) at Bar Ilan University
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