(January 22, 2023 / JNS) Kudos to The Wall Street Journal for defending the new Israeli government’s judicial-reform plan. It takes guts for a news outlet to go against the grain of fashionable politics, particularly when the decibel level of the loud minority is so high.
Anyone arguing that it’s easy for the paper’s editorial board to take a stand that’s unpopular in far-away elite circles ought to reconsider. Though it’s true that the protesters in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem who’ve been spending the past three Saturday nights living it up by warning against the death of democracy are nowhere near WSJ headquarters in New York City, their voices have been resonating well beyond the borders of the Jewish state.
Contrary to what they’re telling themselves, however, the disproportionate global attention paid to the demonstrators has nothing to do with the ostensible merits of their cause—to shield the Supreme Court from those intent on clipping its wings. It is due, rather, to the return to power of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this time with no left-wing coalition partners.
Since disgruntled Israelis whose candidates suffered a defeat in the Nov. 1 Knesset elections were unable to contest the decisive victory of their nemesis, they’ve been discrediting the will of the people through various means. Chief among these is the assertion that majority rule is a greater existential threat than Iranian nukes.
To give credence to the ridiculous assertion, they point to the “democratic elections” that ushered in the reign of Adolf Hitler. The antisemitic analogy doesn’t bother the Israelis using it to characterize ultra-Orthodox Jews in general, and especially haredim in ministerial positions.
Nor are they perturbed that their false accusations provide welcome fodder for enemy cannons. Take the United Nations General Assembly’s arsenal, for instance.
In a follow-up to its Dec. 30 resolution calling on the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory,” UNGA on Friday issued a formal request to that effect. It also demanded an investigation into Israeli maneuvers “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem,” as well as of its overall “discriminatory legislation and measures.”
Never mind that the above bodies, like the Palestinians they champion, see the Jewish state as an entity born and existing in sin, regardless of the makeup of its ruling coalition. The bubble-dwelling Israeli demonstrators who claim that their goal is to rescue democracy don’t care if they trample on it to delegitimize the policies of its current leadership.
The endeavor is bolstered by radicals and liberals abroad, as well as by fellow travelers swayed by catchy slogans. The Wall Street Journal refused to join the choir.
“Every time a right-wing government wins an election these days, the immediate refrain from the dominant global media is that it’s a threat to democracy,” began its Friday editorial. “Israel’s new government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting this treatment now, and a brawl over that country’s Supreme Court illustrates why the issue is more complicated than the media narrative.”
The piece went on to clarify: “Israel’s Supreme Court has more power than America’s but without the democratic checks. Unbound by any constitution, and loosed from requirements of standing and justiciability, Israel’s court strikes down laws that it finds merely ‘unreasonable,’ which can cover most anything. Israel’s court even has a veto on the appointment of new justices, in contrast to the U.S. where the President and Senate share the appointment power.”
Rectifying this situation was a key campaign promise of the right. It’s what a majority of the public wanted.
As the WSJ put it, “The wisdom of the reform proposals varies, but it isn’t ‘antidemocratic’ to think Israel’s Supreme Court needs democratic checks on its power. The danger is that the court will next reject as unreasonable any reforms to the court itself.”
“Eminences in the West might cheer such a move all the way to a constitutional crisis,” the article continued. “They would do better to concede that Israeli democracy has proved to be resilient, often under the most trying circumstances.”
That Israeli naysayers haven’t been able to acknowledge this simple fact not only speaks volumes; it helps to explain their electoral loss. The rest of us know and appreciate what the WSJ concluded—that “[i]f the Netanyahu government overreaches, the voters will get their say again.”
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”
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