As crisis engulfs ties with US, an opportunity emerges… if only PM would take it

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No matter how many times Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is “strengthening democracy” by exercising political control over Israel’s judges. He knows it’s not true.

And US President Joe Biden knows he knows it’s not true.

Biden’s stunning public criticism Tuesday of Netanyahu’s attempt to turn Israel from a tolerant Jewish democracy into a personal theology — the warning that Israel “cannot continue down this road,” and the call for Netanyahu to “walk away” from current legislation that seeks with. to neutralize the courts – the president of the United States has weighed heavily in trying to protect a country he loves from a prime minister determined to do whatever it takes to retain power. Everything, including leaving the fabric of Israeli society, destroying its economy, and undermining the cohesion of its security forces.

It is clear that the immediate efforts of Netanyahu and his loyalists to discredit the US president, from being a victim of “fake news” about the judicial revolution to an outright enemy of the state, are holding no water.

Not all of Biden’s policies in this region favor Israel; his defiance against Iran has caused deep dismay across much of the political spectrum. But he is a lifelong Zionist of excellence, with a track record of commitment, who announced in the most stirring way during his visit here last year that after more than 50 years in the federal government helping ties to build bilateral, “seeing Israel succeed, it is a great miracle for me to see the wildest dreams of the founding fathers and mothers of Israel that the children of Israel enjoy today.”

And he knows exactly what is happening here right now, with Netanyahu’s seizure of power and his deceptive presentation as a restoration of balance to the branches of government. America’s ties to Israel are the closest relationships, and the most modern interaction at all levels of all bilateral spheres. You only had to watch and listen to what Biden said at the Raleigh-Durham airport for evidence.

“I hope that the Prime Minister will act in a way that he can try to work out a real compromise,” the president said, his emphasis on the word “real” emphasizing that 80 year old leader of the free world, to be praised. a heavy load of crises on his table, nevertheless he recognizes exactly what kind of radical legislation Netanyahu is pushing through the Knesset, that the Prime Minister’s overreach in firing his defense minister forced him to order a temporary pause, and that there is widespread skepticism. that the dialogue he has agreed to enter into is only a short delay before that legislative blitz starts again.

Netanyahu’s immediate and alarming reaction only served to reinforce all fears about his increasingly destructive behavior. Basically, the prime minister told the leader of Israel’s existing ally that he didn’t know what he was talking about, and his Butt out.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset, March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu knew all along how caustic it would be to give the Jewish magnate and theocrat Bezalel Smotrich a central role in the government, not to mention rights in the Ministry of Defense. He knew that the anti-Arab activist Itamar Ben Gvir was just about the last person who should be put in charge of the police. He knew how divisive it would be to accept ultra-Orthodox demands for total exclusion from military and national service. And he knew that the judicial revolution he was unleashing was the antithesis of “reform.”

But he has taken all these unimaginable steps and more, having convinced himself that his own political survival is essential to the survival of this country.

In fact, it is the opposite. He and his followers are tearing Israel apart.

President Isaac Herzog will host delegations from Likud, Yesh Atid and the National Unity for judicial negotiations at his residence in Jerusalem, on March 28, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

And yet.

Netanyahu’s choice of a temporary pause and consent to a new dialogue under the auspices of President Isaac Herzog, however cynical the prime minister’s motives are, offers a path out of this nightmare.

We now have two formidable presidents, at home and abroad, calling on Netanyahu to abandon his current proposals and make a substantive, patient effort to initiate serious judicial reform through discussion and consensus.

The talks that began on Tuesday could indeed, as Herzog has long said, mark a “defining constitutional moment”. (A mediator who has not previously led an opposing party may be an idea, incidentally.)

The Israelis, in the last three months, have recognized how fragile our democracy is, the lack of protection given to our fundamental rights, the total inadequacy of the so-called “Basic Laws” which have not been collected, supplemented and laid down as a constitution never them. It has never been clearer that this wonderfully complex country, with such a diverse population and often conflicting opinions and priorities, needs a guaranteed framework for tolerant, stable internal coexistence, and the Declaration of Independence as valuable blueprint.

Out of the crisis, an opportunity has emerged – a path to heal the widening rifts.

But as the leader of our superpower ally pointed out, it is up to the Prime Minister.

The terrifying, divisive nightmare that Netanyahu has inflicted on Israel over the past three months, prioritizing his attack on the rule of law at the expense of all key national interests, leaves little hope. If he took the opportunity, after all, he would really be strengthening democracy.

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