Op-Ed: Israeli Protests Against Netanyahu Suspiciously Resemble the American Radical Left
In Israel, tens of thousands of left-wing protesters have taken to the streets in opposition to the judicial reforms proposed by allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his right-wing government.
In many cases the protests have become unruly, with protesters blocking highways and even train tracks. As necessary, frustrated police units have reluctantly begun to use crowd dispersal methods, including water cannons and non-lethal flash grenades.
As an American-Israeli military and security professional who was present in the U.S. during the BLM riots and antifa violence of 2020, I have a unique perspective on the current events in Israel — a perspective that I dare say the vast majority of Israeli society is dangerously ignorant of.
In November, Israeli elections were held. (By the way, only paper ballots were used, no mail-in or absentee voting of any kind was permitted, and the election results were tallied without any argument within about 24 hours. Just sayin’, America…)
The results of the election were clear: Netanyahu and his right-wing allies were victorious, having won a combined 53 percent of the electoral vote. His left-leaning opposition only secured 33 percent of the vote.
One of the first items on Netanyahu’s agenda was judicial reform. The present method of selecting and appointing Israeli Supreme Court justices lends itself to cronyism, political manipulation and ideological domination — namely by the left.
In a nutshell, generally left-leaning justices and Israel Bar Association representatives can effectively override the will of democratically elected members of the Israeli parliament and install whomever they like as lower-ranking judges.
In the case of new Supreme Court justices, the left-leaning justices and Bar Association representatives can easily veto whomever the elected right-wing parliamentary officials might choose, meaning that a right-wing government can avoid stagnation only by negotiating serious compromises with the left. In contrast, if a left-wing government is in power, it is basically impossible for the right-wing opposition to object in any way.
(The proof of this trend can be seen in the recent appointment of 61 judges in a single session by the previous left-leaning government under Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, including even a notoriously anti-military Israeli Arab judge).
The process is overseen by the Israeli president, a largely ceremonial position now held by Netanyahu’s political opponent and notorious leftist Isaac Herzog. Thus, under the present system, there is no conceivable way for the Israeli justice system to be anything besides either solidly left-leaning or some kind of major compromise with the left.
This leftist domination of the Israeli judiciary is inherently problematic for Netanyahu and his right-wing government.
First, through a leftist interpretation of new and/or existing laws (and even abuse of judicial power), the Israeli Supreme Court can nullify the legislation and other actions of the majority right-wing K’nesset (Israeli parliament). A right-wing agenda approved by a clear majority of Israeli voters could be crippled in an instant by a handful of leftist judges.
And with such major items on the list as the annexation of large portions of Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank) in accordance with the peace plan of former American President Donald Trump, it is simply unacceptable for a small handful of judicial officials to override the will of the entire nation.
While there are a number of proposed reforms on the table, the common denominator is that Netanyahu’s government seeks to impose greater democratic control over the judiciary bodies and bring Israel’s judicial system (especially the selection of judges) in closer alignment with Western nations.
But now the leftists have taken to the streets in protest — and not always in a peaceful or legal manner.
In a shocking contradiction of Israeli cultural values, which place heavy emphasis on the need for political stability as well as vehement support for the military and law enforcement, many are now engaged in BLM- and antifa-style behavior and even violence. For perhaps the first time ever, Israeli highways and railways are being blocked by anarchist mobs. And in true BLM fashion, the streets are being painted with anti-Netanyahu slogans.
And it’s not just the protesters who are oddly similar to the American radical left in their behavior and rhetoric. Key Israeli left-wing politicians are parroting the anti-Trump cries of the Democratic Party.
Former foreign minister and justice minister Tzipi Livni stated that the pending judicial reforms are a “grave danger to Israeli democracy,” echoing the war cry of Democrats against anyone who opposes them.
And echoing the speech of American President Joe Biden himself in September, when he stood in front of Independence Hall surrounded by U.S. Marines and stated that his struggle against Trump and his voter base was a “battle for the soul of the nation,” Livni went further and said that the opposition to the judicial reforms is a “battle for the soul and the future of Israel.”
Herzog has likewise gone to great lengths opposing the reforms. “Coincidentally,” he previously received money directly from the Obama administration to assist in the attempt to remove Netanyahu from power. The U.S. Senate investigated the matter and acknowledged that the corrupt dealings did, in fact, occur.
However, the Israeli courts — the same system now screaming against any attempts at reform — not only dismissed Netanyahu’s complaints, but they actually fined his party for filing the supposedly “false” complaint.
Perhaps the biggest evidence that the American political machine is involved in all of this is the international pressure on Netanyahu and his right-wing government to abandon judicial reforms.
At the end of January, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke alongside Netanyahu and hinted at the Biden administration’s criticisms of the reforms (and, I dare say, Netanyahu’s government in general). Similarly, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has openly criticized the reforms. The United Nations has likewise lambasted them.
It is unclear why American politicians are critical of Israel seeking to be more like America in its judicial system — or how giving voters more control over the judicial system is a “danger to democracy.”
Besides that, in what capacity is it appropriate for a foreign nation to comment on legislative reforms of internal judicial processes?
Can you imagine if Netanyahu, for instance, had issued critical statements or tried to exert pressure in the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the American Supreme Court? The idea is preposterous. And yet, somehow, when it comes to Israel, this type of double standard is a norm that must be accepted.
If these foreign entities are so invested in what is supposed to be the impartial judicial system of Israel, I would argue that is the strongest evidence that Netanyahu’s judicial reforms are exactly what Israel needs.
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