OpinionIsrael at War

Judicial reform controversy emboldened Israel’s enemies

In the Middle East, weakness invites violence, and when your enemy smells blood, you can bet it will go for your throat.

Israeli reserve soldiers and activists protest against the Israeli government's planned judicial reform in the city of Bnei Brak on March 16, 2023. Photo by Flash90.
Israeli reserve soldiers and activists protest against the Israeli government's planned judicial reform in the city of Bnei Brak on March 16, 2023. Photo by Flash90.
(Twitter)
Khaled Abu Toameh
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award winning Arab and Palestinian Affairs journalist formerly with The Jerusalem Post. He is Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The controversy over the judicial reform proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government last year was what likely encouraged Iran’s terror proxies Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis to attack Israel. The mullahs in Tehran and the Iran-backed terror groups viewed the dispute as proof of Israel’s weakness, and a sign of its imminent demise.

Israel’s enemies have always shown great interest in political, security, economic and social events in Israel. They closely follow these events and devote huge effort to analyzing them as part of the “know thy enemy” doctrine.

The judicial reform, a set of five changes to Israel’s judicial system proposed in January 2033, would have shifted the balance of power in Israel from a few unelected judges in Israel’s Supreme Court back to the public and their elected representatives. The proposed reform sparked an unprecedented wave of protests and strikes. As part of the opposition to the reform, some military reservists, including air force pilots, threatened, if the legislation proceeded, not to show up for military reserve duty.

The Iranian regime had closely monitored the dispute. For the regime’s media, the scenes of Israelis, for months on end, clashing with the police after blocking highways and the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport were an indication that the Jews in Israel were headed toward civil war. In addition, the reports about military reservists threatening not to report for duty created the impression among the mullahs and their terror proxies that the Israeli security establishment had been seriously undermined and was on the verge of collapse.

It was against this backdrop of reports about the imminent “collapse of the Zionist entity” that Hamas launched its Oct. 7, 2023 massacre. Hamas terrorists murdered 1,200 people, wounded 5,000 and kidnapped more than 240 others, half of whom are still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Like their patrons in Tehran, Hamas and Hezbollah were also convinced that infighting had weakened Israel to a point where it would no longer be interested in defending itself against a massive invasion.

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen website reported in January 2023:

“We must not underestimate the repercussions of this deep division [within Israel], which is expected to increase and expand, and will certainly have many risks and important consequences on the level of cohesion of the [Israeli] state and the strength and resilience of its institutions.

“There is no harm in exploiting the [Israeli] enemy’s weakness. The Zionist internal arena has witnessed a noticeable increase in the volume of warnings about the danger of the [Israeli] state slipping into further fragmentation and division, which could threaten its regional and global standing.”

In April 2023, The Islam Times, an Iranian online media outlet, commented on the turmoil in Israel: “Hebrew sources have warned in recent months of the collapse of the Zionist entity.”

“In recent months, the differences and gaps between the different sectors inside the Zionist society have taken an upward trend. Aside from issues such as differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews and tensions between secular lists and extremist religious movements, the policies of the Netanyahu government, especially in the field of judicial reform, exacerbated these divisions to the point that the streets of Tel Aviv were transformed into an arena for confrontation between opponents and supporters of the [Israeli] prime minister. It is noteworthy that internal divisions in the Zionist society are an issue that Zionist analysts and experts strongly warn about and present as a threat to the existence of the Zionist entity. According to these analysts, the gap that is forming from within the Zionist society and gradually expanding will eventually extend to the official institutions and pillars of the Zionist entity and cause its collapse from within.”

The Islam Times addressed the threats by military reservists:

“Recently, the issue of the refusal of the pilots of the Zionist entity’s army and reserve forces to participate in military missions has turned into a problem due to their opposition to Netanyahu’s political approach. Gadi Eisenkot, former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, recently said: ‘Israel is in the most dangerous security situation since the October war of 1973, and the strength of the Israeli army is in danger.'”

In April 2023, on X (Twitter), Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei weighed in on the judicial reform crisis. The various crises facing Israel, he said, have accelerated its pace of collapse beyond the 25-year time frame he had previously predicted.

“The Zionist regime has never faced such a terrible crisis like the current one during its 75 years,” wrote Khamenei. “It is gripped by severe political instability. In 4 years, it has changed 4 prime ministers, & political coalitions have fallen apart before they have been completely formed.”

Khamenei was also quoted on another occasion as saying:

“Their [Israel’s] own officials continuously warn that their collapse is nearing. Their president says this, their former prime minister says this, their [military] chief says this and their defense minister says this. They all say it. They say their collapse is nearing and that they won’t make it to their 80th birthday. We said a few years ago [in 2015] that they wouldn’t reach the next 20 or 25-year point from then.”

Five months before Hamas’s attack on Israel, Iran’s Al-Vefagh newspaper published an interview with Reda Sadr al-Husseini, described as a Middle East expert, saying that Israel has not witnessed such a fragile situation since its establishment in 1948:

“The fragility that exists today in the political, economic, cultural, social, and even military and security fields of the Zionist entity has robbed sleep from the eyes of its senior officials and Zionist supporters around the world…. In fact, the events that have occurred in recent years have never been seen in the past 70 years. Among these events, we can mention the failure of the Knesset to form a stable government, the inability to form an alliance between political factions, and the emergence of many problems between politicians and religious people. In nearly four years, four prime ministers have changed in this entity.

“We must not forget that for years the Zionist entity has been presented as the safest place in the world and the most civilized and democratic place in the world. Now comes Netanyahu, who has dozens of cases of moral and financial corruption, to rule them. In order to escape from trial, he resorts to the judicial reform that angers these settlers, and even when he retracts, apologizes, and somehow surrenders to them, they do not accept his apology and continue to object to the government, as huge crowds come every week to the courtyard of Netanyahu’s house, to the point that, in some cases, the Netanyahu family was escorted from their place of residence at night through secret roads and taken to a shelter and a safe place.

“Therefore, today there is no need for a comprehensive war to destroy this [Israeli] entity, as the matter is no longer a problem. Today it is clear that the collapse from within is imminent.”

In February 2023, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said of the crisis in Israel:

“The foolish government in Israel is pushing for two major conflicts—an internal conflict within Israel and a conflict with the Palestinians that will expand to the region. We are hearing discourse from the entity’s president [Isaac Herzog] and former prime ministers Lapid, Bennett, Olmert, Barak and former defense ministers and a general who talk about civil war and bloodshed and that there is no solution to the challenges posed by the new government.”

Many Arabs who were following the protests against the judicial reform took to social media to express joy over the tensions. Some of the hashtags trending then on social media were “The Zionist entity is on fire” and “The [Zionist] entity is collapsing.”

Commenting on the protests, Algerian political analyst Mohammed Dakhouche wrote: “Oh God, make them [the Israelis] suffer and lead them in the path of disharmony.”

Yemeni social media pundit Mohammed Rawdhan wrote on X to his 107,000 followers:

“Netanyahu is burning the entity. Police clash with demonstrators protesting against Netanyahu and his government. Oh God, hasten the demise of the Zionist entity.”

In July 2023, Iranian and Hamas officials met in Tehran to estimate the extent of the unrest in Israel resulting from the judicial reform plan and the ensuing protests and how to benefit from them. The two sides concluded that the crisis had indeed weakened Israel.

Iran and its terror proxies were reportedly happy to see Israel torn apart by the crisis sparked by the government’s moves to approve judicial amendments, especially threats by reserve soldiers and pilots to refrain from participating in military service.

As Netanyahu’s political rivals were busy protesting against him, Israel’s enemies were making preparations to invade Israel. Convinced that Israel had been weakened to the point of being unable to defend itself, Hamas chose Oct. 7 as the date to launch the assault. In the Middle East, weakness invites violence, and when your enemy smells blood, you can bet it will go for your throat.

Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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