Flag procession in Jerusalem 2011
Jerusalem Day Flag March demonstrators outside of the Old City of Jerusalem in 2011. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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In an extraordinary editorial sure to arouse controversy, the New York Times expresses concern that Israel’s greatest strengths “as a democratic state committed to liberal values” are “in danger of being lost.”

In a Sunday editorial entitled “Israel’s Embattled Democracy” appearing in the prestigious Review section, the Times, which has had a testy relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, describes him as a “disappointing, risk-averse leader” whose “dependence on hard-line parties has manifested itself in aggressive settlement building and resistance to serious peace talks with the Palestinians.”

Lamenting the breakup of Israel’s national unity government over the issue of army enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox, the paper expresses regret for the loss of Kadima’s “moderating force.”

It cites demographic changes and quotes experts who claim, “that an influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union and a high birthrate in the ultra-Orthodox community mean that many Israelis have a cultural mistrust of the democratic values on which the state was founded.“

Finally, the newspaper reports on “other worrisome developments” and quotes a report by the Israeli Association of Civil Rights in Israel that describes the introduction of 25 recent Knesset bills on funding of NGO’s, limiting freedom of speech and trampling minority rights as “intensifying infringements on democratic freedoms.”

“One of Israel’s greatest strengths is its origins as a democratic state committed to liberal values and human rights. Those basic truths are in danger of being lost,” the newspaper says.

Considered by many to be the most important newspaper in the United States – if not the world – the Times has garnered increasing criticism in recent years from what its detractors describe as an anti-Israeli slant. This editorial, no doubt, will only fan the flames of the anger that the Times elicits among conservative and right-wing Jews, as well as exacerbating the already tense relations between the newspaper and the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem – especially as it comes against the backdrop of a Middle East that is in utter turmoil.