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What’s really happening in Israel

The protests have nothing to do with judicial reform and everything to do with undoing the results of the last election.

Thousands of Israelis rally in Tel Aviv against the government's judicial reform program, Feb. 25, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari/Flash90.
Thousands of Israelis rally in Tel Aviv against the government's judicial reform program, Feb. 25, 2023. Photo by Gili Yaari/Flash90.
Jerome M. Marcus

When Israeli judicial reform was proposed in January, the left protested, demanding that the legislative process stop so negotiations could take place. It was illegitimate, said the protesters, for the parties who won a majority of the Knesset to use their control to pass a law that didn’t have broad support.

Now the legislative process has been stopped at the direction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Just as the protesters demanded, teams have been appointed and talks scheduled at the president’s residence over the coming weeks.

But the protests have not stopped. What they have done, however, is reveal what they’re really about: Not judicial reform, but undoing the last election.

In Israel, there have been no claims that the last election was tainted by fraud or manipulated by the Russians. The left’s claim is that the people who won the election are bad and should not have won.

Why? Listen to their own words.

In Ashdod, one of the protest leaders—Eliad Shraga, chairman of the innocently named Movement for Quality Government—explained: “We are the light, and Netanyahu and his partners are the darkness. We are democracy and they are dictatorship. We are love and they are hate!”

“Netanyahu, like a man who runs from the truth, knows deep inside that he is not fit to be the prime minister. He knows he doesn’t reach the minimum ethical bar to be prime minister. He knows he’s corrupt, he knows he’s ethically rotten and he knows he doesn’t lead by example,” Shraga proclaimed.

The reason for the protests, Shraga honestly stated, is that the officeholders chosen by “the people” are, in the opinion of the protesters, bad. The protests are being held to throw those elected officials out of office by making it impossible for them to govern the country.

The protesters have never been opposed to any specific legislative proposal. Yair Lapid and Gideon Sa’ar, like many other members of the current opposition, are on record supporting judicial reform. What they are opposed to is the results of the last election. They are convinced that the people who won should not have won, and that the voters who chose these people have no right to do so. Because democracy.

In this, they have an unqualified ally in the Supreme Court, which disqualified Aryeh Deri from serving as a government minister. Deri had been put in power because his party won 400,000 votes. The Court disqualified him on the simple and honestly stated grounds that those votes had been cast unreasonably. It was unreasonable, said the Court, for Deri to be a government minister. So, they ordered his removal from the cabinet.

The protests have tainted even the IDF, encouraging refusals to serve that are explicitly based on the refusers’ belief that the people elected simply should not have won. The soldiers are being encouraged to think they can refuse to serve until that bad choice has been undone. Ehud Barak said exactly this at a Chatham House talk last week. It doesn’t take a Henry Kissinger to figure out that this is a recipe for self-destruction in very short order.

Over the last 2,000 years, the Jewish people have not much experience in governing themselves, and it shows. The people driving events are unembarrassed about saying out loud what they really think. Though they cry “democracy,” their protests are intended to disenfranchise those pesky ignoramuses who vote unreasonably. People who genuinely believe, and are arrogant enough to say, “we are the light” are simply refusing to allow a government to operate if it’s chosen by anybody else.

This is what’s happening in Israel and why it’s happening. Zman lakum, Jewish people. Time to wake up.

Jerome M. Marcus is a lawyer in private practice and a fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.

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