Israel’s Elites Revolt Against Democracy

The Left have always been antidemocratic, as shown by their vast attempts at political censorship we are now seeing. Their ideal has always been revolution.

It's amusing that the Left often accuse conservatives of being anti-democratic. It's projection. To see what is true of them you just have to see what they say of others

In his New York Times opinion piece titled “The U.S. Reassessment of Netanyahu’s Government Has Begun,” Thomas Friedman wrote that he likes to say of his job that he is “a translator from English to English”: He takes complex things and renders them understandable. Israel, he explained, is turning its back on the shared values which have underpinned the friendship between the American superpower and the Jewish state. As Friedman explains it, the judicial reform proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition poses a grave threat to democracy because it would “change the long-established balance of power between the government and the Supreme Court, the only independent check on political power.”

It turns out that translating from English to English may not be the most useful skill when you need to understand something that is happening in Hebrew. Friedman is right that Israel’s democracy is in danger, but Netanyahu’s government is not the source of peril. The real danger comes from the court itself, which is now asserting a made-up “right” to remove a sitting prime minister—that is, to nullify the results of a legal election and eclipse Israel’s democratic politics and institutions through its own self-perpetuating fiat. The protest movement that arose to defend the court’s power (and its backers among the country’s economic and military elite) are together attempting to block the redemocratization of Israeli politics, as the reforms intended to do.

This is not some innovative hypothesis. If you read Hebrew, you can hear some protesters and their backers in the country’s establishments announcing their intentions more or less explicitly: Democracy is the very thing they are out to prevent. The movement’s ideologues are longtime staunch opponents of the democratic form of government who have devoted whole academic careers to opposing it; their political leaders in parliament and outside it use the term “democracy” in a deliberately deceptive way, as they sometimes admit; and their street-level ringleaders more or less openly confess disdain for the mass of enfranchised citizens. Most poignantly, when it comes to the rebelling IDF reservists—virtually all of them from elite unites, mostly in the air force—they don’t even bother with lip service to the idea of majoritarian decision-making. Rather, they express open contempt for the majority of Israel’s citizens, peppered with thinly veiled references to ethnicity, religiosity, and class.

At least some of this unabashed condescension must be fairly obvious, even to foreigners—especially those like Friedman who claim to be in touch with Israeli opinion. At around the time that Friedman wrote his piece, it seemed like a military coup against Israel’s democracy was in the making. News stories accumulated about more and more reservists declaring they wouldn’t report to duty unless the reform was shelved. Speculation about Israel’s battle readiness, or lack thereof, filled the news cycle. For the most part the media framed the issue as a story about heroic reservist martyrs determined to fight “the battle for democracy” rather than calling it what it was: a bunch of officers threatening to jeopardize Israel’s security if the parliamentary majority did not yield to their demands. As the title of one Haaretz piece read: “A Military Coup Is Underway in Israel—and It’s Completely Justified.”

Some writers were not content with cheering on the rebelling reservists. Sima Kadmon, a senior political pundit for the popular daily Yedioth Ahronoth, wrote a full-page piece on the paper’s prestigious page 3, calling on the brass to take command of the situation. The title said “Only They Can Make Him Stop” (July 19, 2023). The piece called on the IDF chief of staff, the head of Mossad, the chief of the National Police and the head of Shabak (Israel’s General Security Service) to walk into the prime minister’s office and tell him “Enough!” thereby forcing him to overturn his cabinet’s policy. In normal language, we don’t call that “democracy.” We call it a military coup.

Threats of a coup continued all the way up to the day of the Knesset vote on the first bill of the reform, a bill already diluted in the negotiations with the opposition, which nevertheless kept demanding more concessions. This was the by-now famous bill to limit the court’s use of the highly subjective “reasonableness” test. The vote was set for Monday, and on Friday a new petition of air force reservists was trumpeted in the press—1,142 signatories, or so we were told, all using only their initials, declared they would no longer report to duty if the bill was voted into law. Among them, we were told, were hundreds of active army pilots and navigators, along with air control officers and special air force personnel.

Shabbat was about to set in and there was no way to verify the initialed names in time for the vote, so nobody could tell how much of this was true and how much a publicity stunt. But that didn’t stop the mainstream press, along with the leadership of the protest movement and the opposition MKs, from rushing to deliver threats—thinly veiled as “warnings”—that Israel’s security would soon be dangerously impaired. Straight-faced pundits placed the blame on the government’s shoulders, attempting to justify the threatened mutiny based on a look-what-you-made-us-do argument. It seemed not to have occurred to most of these journalists that forcing a parliamentary majority to surrender before a group of army officers is the way democracies are generally destroyed, not saved.

The coalition, this time around, saw the coup for what it was and closed ranks, leaving aside the few disagreements that still remained about “reasonableness.” It kept negotiating with the opposition in an effort to reach wider agreement till the very last moment. Yet it still made it clear that with or without agreement the bill would pass because the Knesset would not bow down to threats from army officers. The opposition, for its part, led by Yair Lapid, refused to take part in a vote, and in yet another show of its anti-democratic spirit marched out of the chamber to leave the coalition to vote by itself.


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