Coalition is undermining its own argument for reform

The JC Leader, 15 September 2023


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 27, 2023. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP) (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

September 14, 2023 16:54

One of the most striking aspects of Israel’s judicial reform crisis is the extent to which attitudes have hardened since the current government took office.

In January, just after Benjamin Netanyahu returned as prime minister, the polls showed some 70 per cent supporting the need for reform. It was, in other words, a mainstream view held by Israelis of differing politics.

Now, however, as the Supreme Court has begun its deliberations over the legality of the first tranche of the government’s interventions, the polls tell a very different story, with two diametrically opposed groups. Around a third are adamantly opposed to the reforms, while a quarter approve.

The reason for this divide is obvious: while the need for some sort of reform has long been a mainstream view, the actual reforms proposed by the government have been driven by the extremists on whose support Netanyahu’s majority depends.

These measures, if fully implemented, would hollow out the Supreme Court, removing any meaningful brake on the tyranny of the majority. This would be a genuinely worrying change, which could allow an agenda that harms minorities to be pursued unchallenged.

Coupled with the troubling policies pursued by radical ministers in other areas, the protests are thus not only about the judicial system but also about the future direction of Israel itself.

Despite the hardening of attitudes, however, about 40 per cent remain in the middle. They still want to see some reforms, but on the basis of a consensus.

In theory, it should be perfectly possible to come up with a plan that addresses the flaws in the current system without removing the checks needed to protect the democratic balance.

The coalition, however, is harming its own pro-reform cause by recklessly pushing it too far and too fast.

September 14, 2023 16:54

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