Judicial reform won't make Israel dictatorship - PM's brother to 'Post' - opinion

Those protesting the judicial reform are not 'conditional zionists,' only those abandoning their country are.

 THE WRITER and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a memorial ceremony for their brother Yoni, in Jerusalem in 2021.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
THE WRITER and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend a memorial ceremony for their brother Yoni, in Jerusalem in 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

The members of “Team Amnon,” who served in Sayeret Matkal when my late brother Yoni commanded it and who performed with distinction and bravery in the raid on Entebbe, recently wrote an open letter to Bibi and me. Initially, I did not intend to write a response. Why bother? To yet again, spend my time correcting distortions about my family and me, even if now it was coming from a few of Yoni’s subordinates?

What persuaded me to reply was one sentence that struck me in their letter. It bothered me greatly and still does. We will get to it later.

The team members write that I called the protesters (and by extension, them as well, since it turns out they participated in the protests) “people whose minds were misled.” True, since in my opinion, those who sincerely believe that the proposed judicial reform will turn Israel into a “dictatorship” have indeed allowed themselves to be misled. Had “Team Amnon” bothered to read the explanations provided by the reform initiators and then to think about them in depth, they would know that the reform will certainly not bring about the destruction of democracy, but is intended to do the exact opposite: enhance and strengthen it.

This in fact is also the opinion of quite a few opposition leaders, who in the past spoke emphatically against the current legal system and in support of the reform, only to now furiously lash out against it. They themselves, of course, do not believe for a moment their own slogans about “the end of democracy” and “dictatorship”; they do, indeed, knowingly and intentionally mislead others.

Other claims about the Netanyahus

As for other claims about Bibi and me in the letter, the team attribute to us things that we simply did not say or mean. They attribute such falsehoods to us and then proceed to attack us for supposedly saying them. Quite the method.

 Police attempt to push back protesters on Ayalon Highway during judicial reform protests, March 1, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV) Police attempt to push back protesters on Ayalon Highway during judicial reform protests, March 1, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

Contrary to what is written in their letter, I did not call the protesters “conditional Zionists,” and certainly not anyone on “Team Amnon” (none of whom, in any case, did I ever mention in my interviews or articles). In fact, I view the vast majority of the protesters as unconditional Zionists.

IN THE interview I gave to Channel 11, from which I assume my “conditional Zionists” statement was taken, I specifically referred only to those who threaten to abandon the country due to the judicial reform. (I will add here that I also place those who expressed their intention to refrain from reporting to IDF reserve duty, as well as those who have declared they will move their wealth and/or their companies overseas, in the “conditional” category.)

I also did not say that the protesters would “leave Israel if given the opportunity to do so.” Where did this fabrication come from?

The Team also wrote that I claimed that they, meaning the protesters, are generating “anarchy and fear.” No. It is not the protesters (who are fully entitled to demonstrate) who are creating anarchy, but rather the anarchists among them, i.e., the small minority who break the law.

My words were directed at them, as well as to such leaders who call on Israelis to refrain from doing their military duty and breach the law; not to mention the few opponents of the reform who raise the possibility of taking up arms against those spearheading the reform. Such people indeed propagate fear.

According to their letter, Bibi supposedly called anyone who does not support him a “traitor.” When exactly did he say that? Well, never. The fact that members of “Team Amnon” feed on these and other lies about Bibi and accept them as truth does not make them so.

But the letter’s signatories did not stop with Bibi and me. Toward the end of their letter, they criticize and attempt to defame our late father. With explicit reference to a “conditional Zionist” they write: “Your father left the country in 1939 and returned only in 1949, when the War of Independence was over, then left a second time in 1962 and returned only in 1976 after his son Yoni fell in battle.”

As people rightly say, a half-truth is worse than a lie, but this is also true of facts that are given out of context. Beyond the fact that my father went abroad in 1940 and not in 1939, and that my parents returned to Israel while the War of Independence was still being waged, one should ask: Why did Father go abroad in the first place? Well, it was to join Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s Zionist delegation in America, whose establishment our father initiated.

Initially he was a member of the delegation, and after Jabotinsky’s death eventually became its leader. What was the delegation’s purpose? To round up American support for the establishment of the Jewish state, which support was essential for such an outcome to come about.

TO ACHIEVE this goal, our father worked without rest, day and night for years, creating a large-scale operation that influenced public opinion in America and conducting countless meetings with members of Congress and the US administration. Over time, his work and that of others created wide bipartisan support for the establishment of a state for the Jews in Israel.

And why did we go overseas again in 1963? It was for our father’s groundbreaking research which could not have been done in Israel at the time, and which led to the writing of his monumental books on the Spanish Conversos and on the origins of the Spanish Inquisition, books that shed precious light on the age-old problem of antisemitism.

I would advise “Team Amnon” to read the chapter in my father’s book on the origins of antisemitism, a Hebrew translation of which can be found on the Mida website. Much can be learned from it, including something about how lies can bring about widespread incitement. And while on this website, I suggest they read an article or two about the judicial reform that explains why such reform is essential for Israel’s political and economic well-being.

Finally, I’ll address only briefly – for not much needs to be said about it – my main reason for responding. The matter appears early in the letter. “These days, Israel is in danger,” they write. “This time, the enemy is within.”

In those words: “The enemy within.”

So who is this internal “enemy” of theirs? Am I and others who support the judicial reform because we deem it is essential for maintaining civil liberty? Or maybe the enemy is the prime minister? Or his ministers? Or perhaps all the MKs of the coalition? But maybe “Team Amnon” is referring to the great majority of Israel’s Jewish population who voted for the current ruling coalition? Or to all of these?

“The enemy within,” they say. It sends chills down one’s spine.

Iddo Netanyahu is a physician, author and playwright