Every year, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations meets in Jerusalem to receive briefings on all spheres of government as well as military and economic matters pertaining to Israel and the United States.
The participants are particularly informed, aware and involved in the various issues that Israel faces and undoubtedly they take their responsibility as influencers in the US very seriously.
Addressing this august group in Jerusalem on Sunday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to inject a little levity into the deadly serious situation Israel currently finds itself in by saying, “In case you haven’t noticed, Israel is in the midst of a little thing on judicial reform.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, Israel is in the midst of a little thing on judicial reform.”Benjamin Netanyahu
He then went on to play the victim by telling the gathering that he was under a “gag order” to discuss any details of the reform and the dangerous storm it’s stirred up.
Netanyahu was referring to the decision earlier this month by Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara prohibiting his involvement in the proposals, because of a conflict of interest posed by his ongoing corruption trial, in which he has denied wrongdoing.
Citing the “grotesqueness” of the situation, Netanyahu conveniently neglected to include that pertinent fact.
Although we can only assume that he intended his “little thing” remark to lighten a grave situation, this simplistic way of explaining such a complex situation and the selective use of the facts, indicates that he thinks of the American Jewish establishment as a vassal of Israel that will blindly follow the Israeli government.
Netanyahu still remains dismissive over the massive opposition to judicial reform
It also indicates that Netanyahu remains dismissive of the massive opposition that the reform plans have encountered – from hi-tech and business leaders, to the former heads of Israeli security agencies as well as the many American Jewish leaders gathered to hear him Sunday night.
Netanyahu told the group that “Israel is a democracy and will remain a democracy, with majority rule and proper safeguards of civil liberties.” However, in all of its actions since taking office, the government Netanyahu leads takes “majority rule” literally and has virtually no interest in engaging the huge minority of citizens who did not vote for this coalition and the majority of Israelis, according to multiple polls, who are against the judicial reform as it stands now.
Otherwise, why not slow down the process and accept the recommendation of President Isaac Herzog to suspend the legislation and instead invest time in a dialogue aimed at creating a broad consensus for the reforms?
That’s what US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides was referring to when he advised Netanyahu to “pump the brakes” on the legislation during an interview on a podcast over the weekend.
Nides refined his statement when he spoke to the same forum of Jewish leaders, saying that the US believes “in building some consensus. I made the comment about pumping the brakes, slow down and try to build consensus.”
Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli’s response to Nides – “mind your own business” – is yet another example of the government’s refusal to listen to anyone who isn’t part of their onslaught against the longstanding norms of Israel’s judicial makeup.
The American Jewish leaders Netanyahu spoke to don’t live in a vacuum shaded by rose-tinted glasses. They are aware of what’s happening in Israel, and how the country is at its most precarious situation borne of internal struggle since the 2005 Disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
They won’t be fooled by a sob story about a gag order. They too should be advocating that the leader of the country they care so much about suspend the sweeping judicial overhaul and try to find some common ground while there is still time.
“There’s not going to be a civil war.”Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu ended his remarks by unequivocally stating “There’s not going to be a civil war.”
From where he sits in the Prime Minister’s Office opposite the Knesset – looking out of his window at the masses of concerned Israelis – he needs to do more to ensure that doesn’t happen.
He is the prime minister and he is responsible.