YZ Editor Charles Burton examines the last few days in Israel, in the aftermath of the overturn of the Reasonability Doctrine by the Netanyahu government.
Monday 24th July 2023 was an historic day in the Land of Israel. On the 24th July, the second and third readings of Netanyahu’s proposed legislation to overhaul the Supreme Court were voted on in the Knesset. These readings passed, and the Bill to overrule the ‘Reasonability Doctrine’, which gave the Israeli Supreme Court the power of judicial review, became law which, critics argue, will, in due course, be a significant step in the erosion of democracy in Israel.
As a Diller Teen Fellow, I was privileged to be in Israel on the 24th, and the mood in the country was intriguing. In Jerusalem, tens of thousands congregated across the city, outside the Knesset, in markets and outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, waving Israeli flags and protesting Netanyahu’s reforms. Many protestors carried variations on the flag such as a pink one, used to represent women, a rainbow one, to represent the LGBT+ community, and a red one, for the doctors that have been demonstrating and striking in protest in recent weeks.
The people, too, seemed tense. Walking in Mahane Yehuda at lunchtime on the 23rd, a religious shop owner confronted a protestor carrying an Israeli flag. They had a drawn-out argument, during which the shop owner accused the protestor of not being a ‘real Jew’. It is clear that the political tension in Israel is felt by the people. Indeed, I have heard people saying that this day is as significant in the history of Israel as the Yom Kippur War.
Symbols of the protest movement are seemingly ubiquitous across the country, from the rural north to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Banners can be found on many street corners, lampposts and buildings, evidencing the growing discontent in many sectors of society, regardless of geography, secularism and socioeconomic standing.
However, whilst rarer, or certainly less publicly vocal, support for Netanyahu and the reforms is present. Banners (whilst infrequent) hang from buildings across Jerusalem in support of Bibi. The above banner reads “There is No ‘Right’- Yamina”, “Bibi Without Reform”. This support is, seemingly, not reciprocated by younger people, many of whom are scared for the future of their country.
The feeling amongst the youth is one of extreme angst. An Israeli friend of mine told me she thought the reforms were ‘disgraceful’, and numerous others have been vocal on social media, and the streets, criticising the reforms.
However, critics have challenged the authenticity of the protest movement, spearheaded by the Israeli left. Many outside of Israel see the protests as inherently hypocritical due to the Israeli left’s implicit support for successive governments’ argued human rights violations against the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Indeed, democracy has never been a right for these citizens, and it is only now that the protestors’ rights are in question, critics argue, that they are speaking out against the government.
The argument that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East” has long been used in defence of Israel, however, recent decisions by the Netanyahu government have, and may continue to, erode this argument, as Israel continues to devolve into autocracy. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, it is clear that the 24th was a significant day in Israel, and its impact, though not yet fully known, will undoubtedly be felt across the country for years to come.