While a solution to Israeli judical issues is elusive, one is desperately needed - opinion

No, we will not get to a civil war, but unfortunately, all the dark demons that have been suppressed for years are bursting forth in.

 ANTI-JUDICIAL overhaul demonstrators block a road and clash with police during a protest in Pardes Hanna-Karkur on Tuesday.   (photo credit: SHIR TOREM/FLASH90)
ANTI-JUDICIAL overhaul demonstrators block a road and clash with police during a protest in Pardes Hanna-Karkur on Tuesday.
(photo credit: SHIR TOREM/FLASH90)

“And the land was in confusion and chaos, and darkness was upon the face of the abyss.” – Book of Genesis, chapter 1, verse 2

Confusion seems to be the prevailing feeling in the Land of Israel and rightly so. Apparently, the chaos has no solution.

The coalition stands for legislation of the override clause – the proposed law which would give the Knesset the power to override the Basic Laws, yet the opposition and the protestors consider it marks the end of the world. 

The result of this clash was record protests on Tuesday, including massive and crowded demonstrations at Ben-Gurion Airport

When I sit in a quiet room and try to think how on earth to get out of this – it’s hard to come up with a solution. It seems that the situation is deteriorating and that as radicalization increases, each side is even more convinced that it is in the right. The problem is that the conflict between the parties is getting worse and fear of the consequences is only growing.

Israeli conflict over judicial reform is getting worse, and the consequences are growing

 Tel Aviv Judicial Reform protests, July 5, 2023 (credit: Guillaume Maignan)
Tel Aviv Judicial Reform protests, July 5, 2023 (credit: Guillaume Maignan)

No, we will not get to a civil war, but unfortunately, all the dark demons that have been suppressed for years are bursting forth in. And I wonder whether it is really only the drastic legislative changes that have caused this social volcano to erupt. Probably not.

I watched Channel 12 broadcaster Oded Ben-Ami’s personal appeal calling to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the madness. A touching monologue, really. Oded is a moderate, inclusive, people-loving, unbiased communicator. 

On the other hand, let’s take a moment to deconstruct this and similar appeals to the prime minister. What they actually say is that to prevent chaos in the nation, he must shelve the legislation. Superficially, this possibility seems reasonable. No legislation – no demonstration. 

I watch the images from Tel Aviv of many thousands of protestors so crowded together that some shouted out that it was as dangerous as in Meron (where 44 people died as a result of overcrowding). Friends, if it’s so crowded, why are you there? After all, no one is forcing the protestors to squeeze themselves into precisely such a crowded space. And while things are going on, more and more demonstrators continue to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport. 

It makes no sense. What else? We see photographs of bloodied protestors. It hurts to watch. But it begs the question of whether it is possible that these protesters, who were injured, had earlier ignored policemen’s instructions to move away from where they were standing. 

Is it possible that the police were forced to drag protesters away from where they were interrupting the flow of travelers to another area because they were unwilling to evacuate the area of their own accord? Could it be that the police agenda was simply to create order in one of the most strategic places in Israel, its international airport?

On the other hand, as a strategic consultant, I must say that the ongoing protest, in all its forms, has achieved its goal. Overall, the legislation has been stopped. There is no override clause, there is no new ombudsman law. There is only a change in the law on the issue of probable cause that also currently only passed its first reading. There is a chance that it will be slimmed down before it is brought to a second and third reading. 

These protests will go down in the history of the State of Israel as an event in which the people succeeded in bending the will of the government, although the protestors claim that the amendment of the reasonableness clause is only a single slice of the government’s pie and that the other issues will come up for legislation in the future. 

Justice Minister Yariv Levin spoke in the Knesset this week, before the night vote on the law, and very precisely explained the logic of the new law. According to him, it will not prevent the High Court from invalidating government decisions that are illegal. However, when a decision is made according to all the procedures and according to all the laws, there is no place to then give excess weight to the opinion of the Supreme Court judges.

The truth is that almost everyone who has been in power has been put in very frustrating situations in which they make decisions, follow the law book and procedure, and then the Supreme Court judges come and decide to invalidate the decision because, in their eyes, it seems unreasonable.

And Levin asks: Why is your logic better than my logic, than our logic as elected officials? 

And even elements in the opposition, such as leader Yair Lapid, have criticized the current scenario in which Supreme Court judges intervene to prevent completely legal decisions made by officials only because they, the judges, believe them to be unreasonable. 

It is difficult for me to accept the supremacy of judges over elected officials. And again, I’m not referring to illegal moves, simply to decisions that, in the eyes of the judges, fall under the definition of unreasonableness.

So how do we get out of the terrible mess we are in this time? I really don’t know. 

Let’s take Netanyahu for example. If he gives up and stops advancing the legislation, he will face a very serious domestic intifada. The entire Right, the members of the Knesset, the ministers, and the voters, will become infuriated.

The reform, as mentioned, has been reduced. All that remains of it, at this time, is to update the reasonableness clause. The Left will not give up and the Right will not give up. The opposition is partly afraid of giving up due to the reaction of the protesters, whereas the coalition no longer has much to give up since it has already shelved the rest of the reform at this time. 

Furthermore, there are elements in the opposition who consider that the worse the situation in the country gets, the greater the chance that it will bring down Netanyahu’s rule.

Only the president of the United States can pull the chestnuts out of the fire for us, if he sends Netanyahu a secret message in which he tells him: “Bibi, if you announce a stop to the legislation, for a significant period, let’s say a year, you will not only be invited to the White House as the guest of honor, but we will also work together on the peace agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, an agreement that you all long for.”

If indeed such an appeal is forthcoming, I estimate that Netanyahu will stop, because the profit in it for him is huge. We must find a solution because otherwise, we continue to deteriorate into darkness.

The writer is a strategic advisor and former election campaign manager for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.