Will Israeli unity be achieved with pro-, anti-gov't protests? - opinion

It will be interesting to see if Deri’s supporters will take to the streets to protest the decision, like the demonstrators who gathered last Saturday night in Tel Aviv.

 Arye Deri seen outside his home in Jerusalem on January 18, 2023 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Arye Deri seen outside his home in Jerusalem on January 18, 2023
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

We are truly in uncharted waters. When the High Court of Justice votes 10-1 on an issue, and a sizeable minority of the country’s citizens decry it as political and invalid, then there’s truly something broken with the system and with the society.

Wednesday’s dramatic ruling by the High Court that Shas leader Arye Deri cannot serve as a minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, seems pretty clear cut.

As Yonah Jeremy Bob wrote in these pages on Thursday, the one-sided vote crossed all political boundaries. Moderate conservatives Yitzhak Amit and Yael Wilner, and hardcore conservatives Alex Stein and David Mintz, ruled against Deri.

Some Shas supporters went so far as to raise the racism card, citing the Ashkenazi origin of the judges and the Sephardi heritage of the subject of the ruling.

Avshalom Ohayon, a Shas activist and Deri confidant, was among the supporters gathered outside Deri’s home in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood Wednesday night, where a steady line of mourners – including Prime Minister Netanyahu – arrived to pay their homage to the Shas leader.

 Arye Deri at a meeting of the Health care basket committee, at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, on January 18, 2023 (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90) Arye Deri at a meeting of the Health care basket committee, at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, on January 18, 2023 (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

“Ten white Ashkenazi judges. The same ones who killed our ancestors. We will not remain silent. God willing, the nation will rise up. We’re sick of you corrupt white people.”

Avshalom Ohayon

“Ten white Ashkenazi judges. The same ones who killed our ancestors,” shouted Ohayon to cheers from the crowd. “We will not remain silent. God willing, the nation will rise up. We’re sick of you corrupt white people.”

Many Israelis have lost faith in the legal system

In Israel, a segment of the population has lost faith in the legal system, despite the clarity of the decision based on purely legal considerations. The Deri decision will undoubtedly be used as ammunition by the judicial reformers who cry foul, while those who oppose the government’s plans view the decision as the justice system working in an exemplary fashion.

It will be interesting to see if Deri’s supporters will take to the streets to protest the decision, like the demonstrators who gathered last Saturday night in Tel Aviv and other locations to protest the government’s planned judicial overhaul, and who are planning to return this Saturday night.

That could bring about the national unity that the country has always strived for – everyone out in the streets protesting something.

Will they be able to attract the upward of 80,000 attendees that the anti-government side did? And will they keep the peace, like the orderly demonstrators did on Saturday night? And what will National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir do if they don’t keep the peace, and block roads, or don’t follow police instructions? Will he unleash the wrath of authority on them like he threatened to do with those protesting his government’s policies?

We are truly in uncharted waters. Let’s hope that someone is bringing enough life jackets for everyone.