Those of us who were among the hundreds of thousands of participants in the right-wing rally in Jerusalem on Thursday evening weren’t surprised when the “resistance” bloc pulled a two-fer: downplaying the significance of and attendance at the event, on the one hand; and treating the happening as evidence that Israeli democracy is in danger of annihilation at the hands of fanatics, on the other.
Nor did we imagine that coverage from most media outlets would be accurate, let alone fair, since they’ve been acting all along like a branch of the protest movement. Instead, we drew encouragement from the throngs of fellow members of the national camp who turned up to bolster the government and urge it not to be bullied into backtracking on its mandate.
Both were necessary under the circumstances, with the Orwellian doublespeak of the opposition having become so blatant that it’s putting regular propaganda to shame. Indeed, the projection on the part of the protest instigators isn’t merely jaw-dropping (calling the government, rather than those trying to topple it, a “coup,” for instance); it’s actually been successful at sowing self-doubt in coalition circles.
Ahead of the opening of the Knesset’s summer session on Sunday, then, it was particularly crucial for lawmakers to be reminded of the populace that isn’t drinking the Kool-Aid—those still expecting and demanding judicial reform, with or without a broad consensus. It was also important to highlight that compromise on this or any other issue isn’t on the agenda of the forces spearheading the weekly demonstrations.
The points were made amid much good cheer and lots of applause for the speakers. Justice Minister Yariv Levin was given an especially warm welcome, in addition to cautionary chants of “Don’t be afraid!”
The message was that he shouldn’t cave on the judicial-reform process that the government had put on hold. This was done to allow for negotiations to bring about an agreement and prevent civil war.
Levin’s speech was aimed at reassuring his base that he hadn’t abandoned the mission, and assuaging the fears of opponents.
“We are told that the reform is intended to take over the Supreme Court, but the truth is the opposite,” he said. “We want a court for everyone: liberals, conservatives, right and left. Everyone.”
He went on: “They say that the reform is intended to impose the lifestyle of one public on another. The truth, of course, is the opposite. There is nothing in the reform that involves coercion or an infringement on the individual rights that are important to all of us. We are told that if the reform passes, there will be a dictatorship. There is no bigger lie than that.”
He also addressed Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli and the many feminists who’ve been wearing costumes from the Netflix series, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood.
“Join us so that we have a court that punishes rapists and doesn’t seek ways to make it easier for them; a court that cares for an elderly woman in south Tel Aviv and not for infiltrators who harm her; a court that protects the lives of IDF soldiers not terrorists.”
All well and good. But his words were far less noteworthy than the reaction they elicited from protest leader Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon. The former defense minister, who used to be politically and ideologically aligned with Levin, is now a key promoter of the above-mentioned slurs.
“The fact that he who bears the title of ‘justice minister’ has not yet been fired and arrested, after the mendacious incitement speech that spilled the blood of Israeli judges, is a normalization of the insanity,” Ya’alon tweeted on Friday. “The fact that at the head of the Israeli government, which is trying to carry out a coup d’état, is under indictment for serious crimes and prohibited from dealing with the judiciary due to a clear conflict of interest, is a normalization of the insanity; the fact that the heads of the opposition are conducting negotiations under the auspices of the president of the country on the coup d’état proposal (the Levin-[Simcha] Rothman legislation) is a normalization of the insanity squared.”
So, in Ya’alon’s view, Levin deserves to be sacked and hauled off to jail. Talk about lunacy.
As if any of these statements weren’t sufficient to warrant a psychological examination for their author, he proceeded to demand of the representatives engaged in talks at the President’s Residence that they “get out of there and let the criminal government, which has caused and is causing unprecedented damage to the country and its citizens, deal with [its own mess] so that its days will be numbered.”
His next cynical feat was to invoke and appropriate Ze’ev Jabotinsky—the father of Revisionist Zionism, precursor of the Likud Party heading the current government—by using the title of the latter’s famous 1923 essay.
“Join the ‘Iron Wall’ of the mighty protest, which will not allow a dictatorship! Democracy will win,” he wrote, before going on in his lengthy thread to describe the scenes from Thursday’s “extremist messianic incitement demonstration” as “shocking,” and accusing Levin of inciting “blood-curdling libels against Israeli judges, as if they support rapists and terrorists!”
Never mind that Ya’alon is fully cognizant of the specific cases in question, each of which actually did favor the perpetrators. On a roll, he told his “friends in the opposition” that they are the “messengers of the vast majority that supports democracy and independent judges. … The inciters won’t get their way. Israel will not become a messianic dictatorship with an inciting regime. The huge democratic majority—the democratic ‘iron wall’—will defeat this craziness! Democracy will win.”
What he and his ilk have been trying to obfuscate, however, is that democracy never lost; the left did, at the ballot box in November. The 600,000 Israelis who arrived in the capital on Thursday from around the country were simply reasserting this reality. Let the government not forget it.
Ruthie Blum is a Tel Aviv-based columnist and commentator. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, as well as on U.S.-Israel relations. The winner of the Louis Rappaport award for excellence in commentary, she is the author of the book “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”