After an electoral triumph as profound as Tuesday’s win for incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Likud Party and the right-religious bloc, you’d think that politicians and voters would be having street parties and celebratory rallies, similar to those of Ehud Barak and his supporters in the aftermath of their victory in 1999.
But the response of both voters and politicians to Tuesday’s blowout, which saw Netanyahu’s bloc of four parties win a commanding 64-seat majority in the 25th Knesset, has been muted. The widespread sentiment is of relief, not jubilation. The overwhelming sense is that we dodged a bullet aimed at the heart of the Zionist project. And that feeling grows stronger as reports emerge of the massive effort outgoing Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party invested in getting out the Arab vote to get the three anti-Zionist, terror-supporting Arab parties over the 3.25% electoral threshold.
What was he thinking? What would have happened had Lapid succeeded?
The outgoing government undermined Israel’s national security, economy, social fabric, international relations and standing worldwide. Assessing the wreckage, Netanyahu and his coalition partners are keen to wrap up their talks as quickly as possible, and have a government sworn in as soon as possible. Hopefully, immediately after President Isaac Herzog presents Netanyahu with the mandate to form the next government by Nov. 16.
Netanyahu’s new government will face multiple crises from its first moments in office. Consider just two: The rapidly escalating Palestinian terror campaign and concurrent strategic land grab in Judea and Samaria, and the steadily escalating lawlessness and irredentist violence of Israeli Arabs.
The Palestinian terror offensive is growing in force and momentum every day. As Israelis went to vote Tuesday, a woman in Tiberias narrowly averted being kidnapped by an Israeli Arab terrorist who tried to force her into his car. As votes were being counted Wednesday, three policemen were attacked by a terrorist near the Temple Mount. Also Wednesday, an IDF officer was critically wounded near Modi’in by a terrorist who ran him over and then began stabbing him. The critically wounded officer managed to kill the terrorist before being rushed to the hospital. Thursday, a thirteen-year-old girl sitting in her living room in Kiryat Arba was shot in the head. And Thursday night, the Palestinian terrorist regime in Gaza fired missiles into Israel.
The main reason for the massive rise in Palestinian terror attacks, which began early this year, is the widespread expectation that ailing PLO chief and Palestinian Authority boss Mahmoud Abbas is on his last legs. In anticipation of Abbas’s passing, the war of succession between the various Palestinian terror factions has begun. The signature feature of the Palestinian war of succession is that the targets of the violence are not rival terror groups, but Jews. Each Palestinian terror group vies for power and control by killing as many Israeli Jews as possible.
Wedded to the delusion of the two-state paradigm, which blames the Palestinians’ pathological hatred for Israel on Israel, the outgoing Lapid-Gantz government cannot understand the rationale for the current terror campaign. So, rather than adopt a counter-terror policy relevant to the onslaught we are facing, the Lapid-Gantz government has sought to subcontract Israel’s operations to the P.A. security forces, which themselves are engaged in the attacks, both directly and indirectly, since they are also vying for positions of power in a post-Abbas P.A. The results of this policy: A bullet to the head of a 13-year-old girl.
This brings us to illegal Palestinian settlement construction. Under outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who operates under the delusion that the Jews are the problem, the IDF has not only ceded the operational initiative to the terror-sponsoring P.A. It has ceded massive amounts of strategically positioned territory, adjacent to military bases and Israeli towns, villages and roads, to European Union-funded illegal Palestinian settlements. These illegal settlements choke off Israeli communities from others and prevent their growth; they turn access roads and highways into Palestinian terrorist gauntlets, and undermine the operational freedom of IDF forces.
To secure Israel’s strategic and national interests, the new Netanyahu government will need to overhaul the operational doctrine in Judea and Samaria, in relation both to counter-terrorist operations and settlement activities by Palestinians and Israelis.
Unfortunately, even if the government gives the IDF orders to take the initiative, and provides building permits to Israelis, while taking action against illegal Palestinian construction, it is unlikely that anything on the ground will change. Israel’s radical legal system, from the Attorney General to the state prosecution to the Supreme Court, has systematically undermined the IDF’s ability to seize the initiative in the fight against Palestinian terrorists. They have interfered on everything ranging from the rules of engagement to battlefield tactics.
Israel’s radical jurists have been even more active in constraining Israel’s ability to block Palestinian land theft or destroy illegal Palestinian settlements, while doing everything possible to limit, if not eliminate, the legal right of Jews to buy land, use government land or build homes in Judea and Samaria.
As for the problem of Arab Israeli lawlessness, land theft and irredentist violence, when Netanyahu arrived at the Likud’s post-election party Tuesday night, one of the calls that the crowd of loyalists greeted him with was, “Governance! Governance!” Their intention was clear: They want the incoming Netanyahu government to protect Jewish citizens from aggression at the hands of Arab Israelis. Ending Arab Israeli lawlessness was one of the central issues in the election.
The outgoing Lapid-Gantz government was formed in the immediate aftermath of last year’s Hamas missile campaign against Israel. While rockets were raining down on Israel, and as the IDF launched Guardian of the Walls to stop the Palestinian terrorism, Israeli Arabs were fully participating in an enemy campaign against the state for the first time since 1948. Arab Israelis in mixed cities lynched and assaulted their Jewish neighbors. They burned synagogues and Jewish-owned stores, cars and homes.
Rather than hold Israel’s Arab community to account for the pogroms, the outgoing Lapid-Gantz government empowered the worst actors in Arab Israeli society. It allowed Israel’s Bedouin population to act lawlessly in effectively autonomous regions in the Negev. It stopped enforcing Israel’s land laws. Instead of tearing down the illegal settlements Bedouins are building, often in the middle of IDF training bases, the outgoing government legalized their land theft and offered them even more land.
Dependent on the anti-Zionist, Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Ra’am Party for its existence, the Lapid-Gantz government opted not to enforce the law against Arabs, allowing them to amass weapons and ammunition in their towns.
The police, for its part, prefer this situation to one in which officers are expected to actually enforce the law against Arab criminals. Calls for help from Jews in Jerusalem, Haifa, Lod and Beersheva being threatened or terrorized by their Arab neighbors go unanswered.
The police’s aversion to dealing with Arab lawlessness and violence stems in large part from fear of the legal fraternity. Arresting violent Arab assailants often requires force. Rather than recognize the conditions the police is required to operate in, the state prosecution behaves like Black Lives Matter-supporting prosecutors in Chicago. Rioters and attackers are given Get Out of Jail Free cards and the police officers that risk their lives to arrest them find themselves under investigation, suspended or indicted. When Arab pogromists and extortionists are indicted, the crimes they are charged with are often minor. And if they are charged with major crimes, lenient judges given them negligible, if any jail time.
The legal fraternity’s effort to block governments from implementing policies it opposes for ideological reasons is not limited to issues related to Arabs and Jews. The legal fraternity intervenes on just about every issue, particularly those relating to Israel’s Jewish character. For instance, last September the Jerusalem administrative court upheld a lower court ruling that effectively abrogated Israel’s ban on civil marriages. The courts’ decisions have nothing to do with the law. They are predicated on the political and ideological convictions of unelected judges, who like a minority of Israel’s citizens want to legalize civil marriage in Israel and don’t care that a majority of Israelis wish to maintain the current system in which all marriages performed are supervised by the state’s Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious authorities.
In light of the non-democratic, hyper-political legal fraternity that controls the levers of power in Israel, the most urgent item on the incoming Netanyahu government’s agenda must be to reform the judicial system, including the state prosecution and the Attorney General’s office. Everything Netanyahu and his colleagues seek to achieve depend on it.
Over the past 30 years, Israel’s judges and state lawyers have rejected all checks and balances on their powers. Acting without legal basis, they have seized more and more powers from the elected leadership of the country.
Efforts to enact legal reforms to check the power of the legal fraternity have been stymied time after time because support for those reforms always fell a few votes shy of a majority in the Knesset. As the legal fraternity grew more comfortable exposing its radical, post-Zionist worldview, the Left, a minority in Israeli politics that nevertheless controls nearly every media outlet in the country, realized that with the legal fraternity on its side it didn’t require a parliamentary majority to impose its policies on the public.
Once that reality set in, the Left demonized every politician who sought to reform the legal system as an enemy of democracy, and when possible as a corrupt crook. Invariably, those politicians would find themselves under criminal investigation and even on trial for non-criminal behavior.
On Tuesday, the people of Israel voted in favor of 64 lawmakers who support the widescale reform of the legal system. And with their parliamentary majority, the power to enact reforms is in their legitimate hands. But power is fleeting. Since the legal fraternity rejects all challenges to its authority, time is of the essence. The longer the incoming government waits to act, the more organized the legal fraternity and its allies will be to block a reform agenda.
After suffering through a year-and-a-half of the most radical and incompetent government in our history, a government that saw eye-to-eye with radical jurists on all issues, the incoming Netanyahu government must contend with massive challenges and threats from all quarters.
Voters gave Netanyahu and the right the largest mandate the nationalist camp has received in two decades. They expect the incoming government to clean up the mess that Lapid and his colleagues are leaving behind, and to push Israel forward. The only way for Netanyahu and his partners to meet these expectations is by making far-reaching reforms to the legal system.
Time is of the essence, and the time to move is now.