AP – Israeli historian, philosopher, and best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari said Thursday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may go down in history as the man who destroyed Israel.
Harari, who has been vocal in his opposition to a proposed judicial overhaul by Netanyahu’s right-wing government, said the longtime prime minister has divided the country to preserve his political longevity.
This has caused rifts that will be difficult to heal, Harari said.
“If Netanyahu had retired after two terms in office or after, say, eight years. I think, even though I didn’t like a lot of the things he did, I think he would have retired as one of the great leaders of Israel,” Harari said during an interview with the Associated Press in Tel Aviv.
“Now, his legacy is that he is a separatist of Israel, the one who divided the nation of Israel against itself. And I hope … we don’t get there,” he said. “But he could go down in history as the person who destroyed the state of Israel.”
Harari is among scores of academics, business leaders, and military figures, both active and retired, to speak out against judicial reform.
Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, says the plan is needed to preserve the powers of intermediary judges.
But critics say it will push the country toward authoritarianism by weakening an independent court system and concentrating power in the hands of Netanyahu and his allies. Among the proposed changes: giving Netanyahu’s ruling coalition control over the appointment of judges and authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions.
After heavy protests, Netanyahu scrapped the plan this week and launched compromise negotiations with his political opponents.
Harari said that Netanyahu, who is in a coalition with ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist parties affiliated with the West Bank settlement movement, could move towards a dictatorship if the plan is passed, and sounded the alarm to Israel’s Western supporters.
“If this kind of power falls into the hands of an autocratic regime, which is also a fundamentally religious regime with expansionist aims and this belief in Jewish supremacy, it will set the entire Middle East on fire,” Harari said.
Harari, 47, is known for books such as “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” a bestseller that has been praised by notables, including former President Barack Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and “Homo Deus : A Short History of Tomorrow.”