2 August 2023
Democracy is lost not only through official acts, such as laws and regulations, but also – perhaps especially so – by fueling a public atmosphere in which democratic institutions and processes are tarnished and delegitimized. Over the past few days, we have seen Part Two of this one-two antidemocratic punch coming from Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and his Likud cohort.
Following the July 24 passage of a law that will strip the judiciary of a key component of its ability to check executive branch power and prevent it from becoming an unbridled illiberal regime (the so-called “Reasonableness Standard” amendment – see our statement here), Netanyahu and co. are now continuing to undermine Israel’s High Court of Justice in the realm of public opinion.
- During a series of interviews, Netanyahu has pointedly refused to commit to abiding by a High Court ruling that would potentially declare the Reasonableness legislation to be in contradiction to Israel’s democratic foundation. (The Court will hear petitions to that effect next month.) In doing so, he is saying to Israelis that High Court rulings are no more than ignorable “opinions”. And just yesterday, Netanyahu’s Likud party publicly warned the Court to keep its hands off the recent legislation.
- Not content with her party’s thinly veiled threats, Likud MK Tally Gotliv said the quiet part out loud: We will simply “not respect”, she said, any ruling made by the High Court concerning the new law, and such a ruling will be considered irrelevant. Checks and balances, in other words, might soon become a relic of Israel’s past.
- Last, but certainly not least, in background briefings for the Israeli press, Likud officials have been using language regarding the High Court that’s usually reserved for Israel’s enemies. One trenchant example: Netanyahu, they say, is choosing a path of intimidation in order to create “deterrence” vis-à-vis the Court and cause it to refrain any attempt to counter the government’s autocoup. “Deterrence”, in Israeli discourse, is a term employed almost exclusively when discussing policy options regarding Hamas or Hezbollah.
When Netanyahu’s coalition passes laws that undermine democracy in Israel, everyone rightly sits up and takes notice. But we mustn’t forget that Netanyahu and his allies, in ways like these that receive far less attention, are cultivating an antidemocratic spirit in Israel, day after day, week after week. We stand with the many in Israel who valiantly oppose them.
In the weeks and months ahead, Partners for Progressive Israel will continue to keep you informed of the Netanyahu government’s efforts to dismantle democracy within Israel’s 1967 borders, while we also advocate for an end to the Occupation so that the democratic rights of the Palestinians in those territories may be secured as well.