The new Likud

The rule of the majority is just one aspect of a healthy democracy. Careful protection of minority rights, freedom of expression for all and a strong, independent judiciary are no less important.

Netanyahu with likud background 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu with likud background 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset list chosen by Likud party members this week was clearly more hawkish and right-wing then the previous Likud line-up. Veteran politicians that represented the more liberal stream in the party such as Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and Minister- without-Portfolio Michael Eitan were ejected from realistic spots on the list.
Likud’s shift to the Right appears to be a reflection of a larger trend within Israeli society. While the party undoubtedly represents opinions more right-wing than what can be considered “centrist” in Israeli society, the Likud – after its merger with Yisrael Beytenu – stands to be by far the most popular and, therefore, largest political party in the next Knesset. And the Likud will most likely lead the next government coalition supported by smaller right-wing parties.
Most – if not all – public opinion polls conducted in recent months show that a right-wing coalition will once again lead Israel after the January 22 elections.
Population trends are part of the reason for Israeli society’s gradual but steady move to the Right in recent years. The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population – which tends to be hawkish on security and diplomatic issues – is growing fast. And as rabbinic leadership becomes more fractured – particularly after the death of Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv – we might be seeing increasing numbers of haredim voting for non-haredi political parties. Religious Zionists are another segment of the population with a high birth rate.
In addition, some three-quarters of about one million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union who have arrived in Israel since the late 1980s voted for either the Likud or Yisrael Beytenu in recent elections.
These immigrants combine an aversion to left-wing economics with a cultural affinity for ethnic nationalism.
The success of the Right also has to do with its ability to adopt pragmatic diplomatic positions first proposed by the Left – such as the two-state-solution – while at the same time succeeding much better than the Left at adhering unabashedly to the sorts of ideals shared by the vast majority of Israelis: That exclusively Jewish immigration should be encouraged; that the Jewish people’s historical homeland is rightfully in the biblical land of Israel; that uniquely Jewish culture and tradition should be nurtured; that maintaining political self-determination backed up by a strong military capability will help ensure Jewish continuity in the face of anti-Semitism and the threat of assimilation.
But while the Likud’s move to the Right is a democratic reflection of the will of a majority of Israelis, we must be wary of undermining other aspects of Israel’s democratic character. Some of the more right-wing legislators in Likud and Yisrael Beytenu have proposed – and in some cases passed – controversial legislation which we at The Jerusalem Post have opposed.
One example was a bill that, if passed, would have taken away the Supreme Court’s veto over justice appointments and transferred full responsibility to the Knesset.
Thankfully, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, backed by Begin, Meridor and Eitan, torpedoed the measure, which would have weakened the court’s autonomy and its ability to protect minority rights and freedom of expression.
Another example was legislation passed by the Knesset in July 2011 that gives individuals, institutions, and businesses in Israel standing to sue those who implement or even advocate anti-Israel boycotts.
Because it specifically singles out as illicit any boycott aimed at those with an “affinity with the State of Israel,” the law is unabashedly ideological and intended to punish only one way of thinking in Israel.
The right-wing coalitions that have dominated Israeli politics in recent years – and which will probably continue to do so – are undoubtedly a reflection of the will of the people.
But we must be careful of a situation in which there is a “tyranny of the majority.” The rule of the majority is just one aspect of a healthy democracy.
Careful protection of minority rights, freedom of expression for all and a strong, independent judiciary are no less important.