Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a revolutionary. Since he entered politics 32 years ago, Netanyahu has upheld an integrated vision for Israel comprised of diplomatic, security and economic components. His vision sees Israel rising as a regional power with a first world market economy preserving and protecting a democratic Jewish nation state.
Netanyahu is a pragmatic revolutionary. He has picked his battles sparingly and implemented his vision opportunistically in the sense that when he’s had opportunities to move forward, he has pounced on them. For instance, as finance minister in Ariel Sharon’s government from 2003-2006, Netanyahu used Israel’s deep recession as a means to implement his long-held plans to transform Israel into a market economy.
When he can’t move forward, Netanyahu operates laterally and so creates new opportunities to push forward when the time is right. So when Obama turned a cold shoulder to both Israel and to the US’s traditional Sunni allies to tilt US Middle East policy towards Iran, Netanyahu reached out to the Sunnis. The ties he forged with the Saudis, the Egyptians and Emiratis enabled Netanyahu to stand up to Obama when he demanded concessions to Hamas and sought to silence criticism of his nuclear deal with Iran.
Thanks to the Trump administration, today Netanyahu has the diplomatic opportunity to implement his vision in relation to the Palestinians. Netanyahu set out that vision in the lead up to the inconclusive elections in September. It involves moving past the failed and mordant peace process with the PLO, and securing Israel’s national and strategic interests in Judea and Samaria by applying Israel law to the Jordan Valley and the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
But now that the international path is open, a domestic obstacle has risen to stop him. That obstacle is an opposing revolution – the judicial revolution initiated by retired Supreme Court president Aharon Barak some 25 years ago. Just as Netanyahu is on the verge of completing his revolutionary work, so the legal fraternity that embraced Barak’s revolution is poised to complete Barak’s.
All of Netanyahu’s actions have been taken against the wishes of Israel’s entrenched elites, whether in the labor unions or government service or the media. The economic elites that benefited from Israel’s socialist system, opposed his free market reforms. The hidebound diplomats who were promoted on the basis of their allegiance to the idea that making peace with the PLO was the key to Israel’s diplomatic standing, opposed his view that international relations are based on common interests not on ideology or appeasement. The military for a generation was trained to believe that there is no military solution to terrorism.
All along, the source of Netanyahu’s power has been the voters. Without their support, he would never have achieved anything.
In stark contrast, Barak’s revolution is a revolution against Israel’s democratic system. Its goal is to transform Israel from a parliamentary democracy into a post-democratic regime controlled by unelected state prosecutors and supreme court justices who control all aspects of public life in the name of “substantive democracy,” and the “rule of law.”
For the past 25 years, with the support of the media and the cooperation of radical NGOs, the Supreme Court, the attorney general and the state prosecutors have seized the powers of Israel’s elected leaders by judicial decree and legal opinion.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s decision last month to indict Netanyahu for behavior that has never been defined as criminal either in law or court precedent is just the latest bid to empty elections of all meaning and deny elected leaders, and the voters who elect them, the sovereign power to determine the path that Israel will advance along.
Obviously, Netanyahu’s revolution and Barak’s revolution cannot coexist in peace with one another.
And so, by indicting Netanyahu and inserting the legal fraternity into Israel’s political system as the most powerful decisive force in the country in the midst of Knesset elections, Mandelblit, the justices and the prosecutors are seeking to complete their seizure of power. The only way to stymie them, and restore Israel’s democratic system by legislating checks and restraints on their powers is by reelecting Netanyahu with a parliamentary majority.
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