Feb 23, 2023
Focusing on national unity or civil liberties ignores the elephant that is not only in the room but is stampeding across the land: Israel’s control of more than 5 million Palestinians
The fight against Israel’s judicial overhaul, which would give the prime minister and the governing coalition almost unlimited power to shape and override court rulings, has focused on the rifts it is causing in society and the potential for future harm.
The specific nature of the harm is often left vague. American Jewish leaders called for “protection of minority rights.” Former security service agents are afraid for “the foundations of the democratic regime, the unity of the people, and national resilience.”
Some protestors do mention the fear that individual rights will be stripped from women, queer people, and vulnerable groups. This is a real concern, and it is probably the thing that drew the masses of protestors into the streets.
But focusing on national unity, or even on civil liberties, ignores the elephant that is not only in the room but is stampeding across the land: Israel’s military rule over more than 5 million Palestinians.
The weakening of the courts is designed to facilitate Israel’s annexation of the West Bank–if not through formal application of sovereignty, then in every other way. Behind Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s passion for rewiring the country’s system of governance is his devotion to the Greater Land of Israel. This coalition has paired him with Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich, who is pursuing annexation with single-minded devotion.
Gaining control of the courts, which have placed some small checks on the settlement enterprise, is only one of their tactics. Israelis should be protesting just as loudly against the bizarre appointment of Smotrich as a minister in the Ministry of Defense with control over civilian life in the territories; against National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s decision to restrict shower time for Palestinian prisoners to just four minutes; and against their plans to remove all restrictions on settlement construction in the West Bank.
Photo credit: Yossi Zamir via Shatilstock