‘Saving democracy’: the underlying motivations
'The protesters fear for one thing only – their privileges'
For the last four months, left-wing supporters, mostly of the top decile in the Israeli secular sector, have been protesting against the newly elected government, claiming democracy is in danger.
While the right to protest is the living soul of a democracy, it has been taken to limits never seen in Israel: absurd demonstration shows, refusal to serve in the military, financial and foreign affairs sabotage, public disruption, physical and verbal violence, and other provocations.
Their struggle, however, relies on a false foundation that Israel is verging on a “dictatorship” and it is their obligation to prevent it. But the truth is far from that. Along with the frustration of the recent election results, the comeback of their most despised prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the understanding they cannot win the elections in the near future, the protesters fear for one thing only – their privileges. The protests against the government are revealed as a mere struggle to maintain social superiority over other sectors in Israel.
The announcement of the judicial reform was merely a starting gun to embark on a quest to force the government to be overthrown or at least brought to its knees.
After the 1977 political changeover, this sector was determined to hold on to the country’s power bases as a tool to deprive governments, namely right-wing, from leading changes which might interfere with their agenda. It worked wonderfully until today. They realise this government endangers this extremely efficient tool and that they must take drastic measures to protect it to ensure their privileges are preserved.
Being an important power base, the Supreme Court, in a revolution well-hidden from the public some 30 years ago, granted itself nearly unlimited power over the parliament and the government together.
The right to conduct a non-transparent judges’ nomination process, nearly always of that same particular sector, and maintaining only its progressive approaches, allows the Supreme Court to selectively enforce the law in favour of this sector’s interests. This is known as the judicial activism. Together with the governmental offices’ legal advisers, who are said to be their proxies, it conducts as the de-facto governor in Israel, regardless of the people’s voice.
While almost every Israeli agrees amendments to the judicial system are necessary, the proposed reform is indeed not perfect. Additionally, the government failed to conduct a sensible change process and a proper public diplomacy. It was criticised for directing all its attention to the reform instead of handling more critical issues, including Iran becoming nuclear, cost of living, personal security and developing Israel’s periphery.
But the government’s failure is only an excuse. Netanyahu, who is politically isolated and almost boycotted by all other parties, and withstanding a lawsuit in court with serious allegations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, is the least legitimate prime minister in the eyes of many Israelis. Standing little chance of becoming mainstream, ever since he first came to power in 1996, preceding Rabin’s assassination, he will never be allowed to lead any reform, especially not one considered by this sector as a “game changer”.
An integral part of this protest and its inertial power is the Israeli media. It has been a key role-player in influencing and shaping the public’s opinion, and in conveying the left-wing narratives for years. It is now the most efficient contributor in spreading the false “end of democracy” argument, claiming the government brings a calamity upon Israel. The protesters are glorified and presented as noble and patriotic, and the protests are presented as justified “uprising” to save democracy. The media is complemented by the Israeli academy that has dedicated itself for more than half-a-century to support post-Zionist, anti-religious and progressive approaches, all of which have already been well absorbed in the Israeli atmosphere.
When left-wing politicians and other former leaders spout irresponsible statements against the government and its voters as a sole ideology, the protesters are being pushed even harder to escalate their protests.
Many trustworthy and valued figures like professors and former security service officials warn the reform laws will enable the government to be free to do whatever crosses its mind, and are leading Israel to an economic, social and security disaster. They fail to answer, however, whether Israel was not democratic until 30 years ago. It is clear now, that the warnings and sabotage actions, and them only, are the ones causing damage to Israel.
The protests continue despite the negotiations at the President’s residence. It is a clear indication of the protesters’ true intentions – the majority can have their government, but it is them who shall remain the sole “landlords”. This is obviously not a sincere attempt to save democracy, but rather a stampede to crush the very essence of it.
Eyal Reuveni is an Australian-Israeli currently living in Israel.