This a bit long but important to know:
Israel is in the news again these days. President Trump is proposing to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, contrary to international policy. Is Israel the country that many Americans, particularly evangelicals. imagine it to be? Read on:
Arabs, peace activists and Israel’s left wing have long challenged as undemocratic the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But now that criticism is being leveled by former security officials and members of the right-wing establishment itself, including veterans of Mr. Netanyahu’s own political party and his Justice Department.
They say that the government’s efforts to control the news media, curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and undermine the military threaten the future of Israeli democracy.
Netanyahu and his colleagues are accused of corruption. A former chief of Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic security service, publically stated that if “the ethical and moral rot that leads us ontinues, this incredible Zionist enterprise will expire.” The attorney general has criticized efforts to thwart corruption investigations against Netanyahu, and the Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, a member of Netanyahu’s party, has warned that “statesmanship has come to an end” and that Israel was “witnessing the winds of a second revolution or coup.” Rivlin accused those in power of working to delegitimize and weaken “the gatekeepers of Israel’s democracy,” and, crucially for a country that lacks a constitution, erode the justice system and the influence of the courts. The government, he said, was championing the will of the majority while weakening the institutions that protect the rights of the minority.
The internal politics of Israel has reached an unprecedented level of toxicity and partisanship. Netanyahu is responsible for attacks on the news media, efforts to impose sanctions on human rights organizations deemed to act against Israel abroad, and attempts to advance legislation in Parliament to override decisions of the Supreme Court. Politicians from Likud have maligned Shin Bet as cowardly and delusional, and branded former security chiefs critical of government policy as “leftists,” now almost a synonym for traitors in some right-wing circles. Netanyahu himself, under investigation in two graft cases, personally attacked the police in a Facebook post, accusing them of leaking details to the press. And Likud politicians are trying to prohibit the corruption investigations of a sitting prime minister.
“There is a clash not between left and right but between the values of the founding generation of leaders who put the common good and the interests of the state first and a newer, more populist and partisan politics epitomized by Mr. Netanyahu’s government.
Mr. Rivlin, 78, and Mr. Netanyahu, 68, though only a decade apart, reflect these two Israels. Mr. Rivlin champions the old-school nationalist but liberal democracy envisioned by the right-wing Zionist Revisionist movement of Zeev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, who pushed for a greater Israel territorially but were sticklers for defending minority rights and the rule of law. Netanyahu, who has been elected four times, reflects the ethos of the digital age, leading what many describe as the most nationalist and illiberal government in Israel’s history. Meanwhile the opposition is divided, weak, and has no influence.
Daniel Gordis, an author and senior vice president of Jerusalem’s Shalem College for the liberal arts, says he views much of what is happening in Israel “in the shadow of the Trump administration.” With all the differences in personality, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Trump have resorted to similar tactics, such as decrying the mainstream news media as purveyors of “fake news.”. Mr. Rivlin probably felt he had an obligation to speak up, Mr. Gordis said, because Israel was “inching ominously toward a watershed moment.” But unlike the United States, he added, “Israel is a 70-year-old democracy, not 250 years old.”
(An edited, shortened version of an article called “Is the End of Israeli Democracy Nigh? Israelis Debate Its Future” by Isabel Kershner in the New York Times, 31 October 2017)