Last week’s Knesset vote to limit the application of the doctrine of reasonableness in order to rein in the Supreme Court’s ability to question decisions of the prime minister and the Knesset left many of us disappointed. While it is true that the change is a relatively small one in the judicial space, as it applies only to the Supreme Court’s evaluation of the country’s governing power but not to the myriad of other decisions that it and the lower courts regularly evaluate, nevertheless, as I wrote earlier, the fear of some of us is that this is just the first step on the road to autocracy.
However, the process itself was spearheaded by the democratically elected majority of Israel’s legislature who used the democratic process to do something that many believe will lead us to a nondemocratic government framework. No doubt, a whole modern Talmudic tractate of pros and cons could be developed just from that one topic.
Those in opposition were no less democratic in their use of the right of free speech to demonstrate, object and, yes, even threaten strikes and civil disobedience as a tactic to make their voices heard. No one should make the mistake of criticizing either side for not being democratic, even if not all of the tactics were to their liking.
But while the battle for that one small piece of the Knesset majority’s judicial reform package has been lost (unless that very same Supreme Court decides later that the bill itself was illegal, thereby setting up a challenging constitutional crisis for sure), the “war” is not over. There are other elements – such as the composition of the Judicial Selection Committee, the drive to get the power to override decisions of the Supreme Court and the government’s power grab to remake the Israel Bar Association in its own image – that should concern all of as much as or more than what was just passed.
The public, therefore, must remain vigilant during this period, and if there is disagreement with what the leadership in power wants to pass, the objections should be raised loud and clear, even if it means, once again, living through weeks of demonstrations and disruptions. That is what we all must do. It is, after all, a hallmark of democracy to be able to do so.
Stay vigilant of judicial reform, but don't complain about it outside Israel
WHAT WE must not do any longer, however, is broadcast our issues to the whole world. Our society does itself a terrible disservice when leaders of the hi-tech community travel to New York, for example, to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and then expose their black T-shirts showing their displeasure with the actions of the government of Israel, the very country that made it possible for them to earn the million dollar plus salaries along with the fancy homes on the coast that so many of them enjoy. My guess is they were quite happy in the early days of their companies to take the grants from Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist to build the businesses that made them wealthy and the toast of the world. They have no legitimate beef with this country that needs to be broadcast abroad. They should simply leave their beefs at home.
We also need to stop former prime ministers like convicted criminal Ehud Olmert from going on the BBC as he did this past week to tell the world that “we are going into a civil war now,” or Ehud Barak’s promoting a plan to take over the government and being ready to return to power “when the floating bodies [in the Yarkon River] will be of Jews that were killed by Jews.” Seriously?
In principle our people and organizations should flatly reject any invitation to speak about the issues here anywhere but in Israel. Whether it is to The New York Times, CNN, BBC, NBC, CBS, or ABC, the answer should always be the same – that is, that this is an internal issue that we are struggling with, and we have no desire to take it abroad. It will never be to our benefit to do so. If it is so important for them to know what is going on, they can contact their stringers here for information.
This is one situation where “airing our dirty laundry” abroad only has a downside and no upside whatsoever. Spreading concern worldwide only makes us look weak to our enemies, which then generates a potentially serious security issue for us. It would be a terrible thing if hawking our internal disputes in public causes our enemies to be sufficiently emboldened to attack us.
Abraham Lincoln’s now-famous “house divided” statement, which was drawn from the Christian Bible’s Book of Matthew 12:25, was part of a campaign speech he delivered at the 1858 Illinois Republican State Convention. In that speech he said there was no compromise; you were either for slavery or against it. In our context, the basic idea is as strong, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We have lost two commonwealths because we could not find a path toward compromise. We dare not go down that path again.
We should continue to protest, keep up the battle, respect the decision when it comes, and retain the patriotism that has been on display for these past six months and about which we should all be proud. And let’s make all of that happen in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, and the rest of Israel, not in London, New York, and San Francisco.
The writer is CEO of Atid EDI Ltd., an international business development consultancy, board member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the American State Offices Association in Israel, former board chairman of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, and past national president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.