Analysis |

Likud Liberals Are Burying Their Heads in the Sand

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Netanyahu is a sworn supporter of the judicial revolution. What, then, there is to talk about – and even more so, with whom?

Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht
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Likud party supporters hold a banner showing Benjamin Netanyahu, in the lead up to the 2022 Knesset elections.
Likud party supporters hold a banner showing Benjamin Netanyahu, in the lead up to the 2022 Knesset elections.Credit: Moti Milrod
Ravit Hecht
Ravit Hecht

As President Isaac Herzog tries with all his might to start a dialog around Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s planned legal revolution and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu snows the Biden administration with claims that the legislation will be passed only with a broad consensus, liberal Israelis are being subjected to carpet-bombing that’s starting to border on the grotesque (and thanks to Shas lawmakers for their sweet, hysterically funny proposal to add the vital phrase “in God we trust” to the Bank of Israel Law).

Where are they not attacking? They’re targeting the courts, public spaces, Shabbat, the right to demonstrate.

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Many people ask the protesters what their end game is – that is, what they actually want. The same question ought to be posed to members of the government. How far do they plan to go with their bulimic hallucination? What is really important to them out of this cacophony, which is driving us all crazy?

Despite the growing economic pressure and the sincere and exceptional concern being voiced by many people – the warning signs, generous in their modesty, that have been arriving both from Israel and from abroad – Netanyahu hasn’t even hinted that he plans to stop the wild ride he has allowed Levin and his partner, Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chair Simcha Rothman, to take in that car better known as the State of Israel.

At first, Netanyahu gave the impression that he had been dragged into this calamitous act or taken captive by the alliance of lunatic extremists surrounding him. But as time passes, it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is a sworn supporter of the gun that Levin placed on the table. The question that must be asked, then, is what there is to talk about – and even more so, with whom?

Herzog’s expectation is that the sane liberal right will stop this attempted coup against our system of government. This hope was later echoed by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, who expressed a willingness to engage in dialogue. What they are hoping for is for calls for restraint like the lone whistle let out by MK David Bitan, Levin’s political rival. “It’s impossible to do this with a 10-kilogram hammer,” he said.

But at least at this stage, that chance looks even slimmer than the hope that Netanyahu will come to his senses and stop the madness voluntarily.

Every time a member of the governing coalition decides to deal another blow to the status quo and move it in the direction of a halakha state, there is some agitation among the Likud party’s base. Sometimes Netanyahu even wakes up and stops it, as he did with Culture Minister Miki Zohar’s gaffe this week on the issue of cultural programs on Shabbat.

But not a smidgen of this energy can be found regarding the plan to destroy the legal system. The Likud base supports this plan, because this is what has been dinned into their skulls for years now, especially after Netanyahu was indicted. Every one of them has become an expert on constitutional law and the legacy of former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.

To get an idea of just how unrealistic it is to have such expectations of the liberal right, you have to look at the liberal MKs in Likud, who are now supposed to protect us all from Kahanism, the Haredi MKs’ wild behavior and religious Zionist extremism. The “statesmanlike,” “moderate,” “Likud of yore” MKs who tweet best wishes for the success of the army’s new chief of staff and post pictures of themselves cooking Shabbat dinner while wishing “Shabbat shalom to everyone in Israel” (with an emoji of the Israeli flag).

I contacted the spokespeople for four of them – Yuli Edelstein, Gila Gamliel, Avi Dichter and Ofir Akunis. Some said their bosses would not agree to be interviewed on this subject, as if it were a marginal issue that it’s possible not to worry their heads about. Akunis’ spokesman generously explained to me, at length, why the minister who once considered running for mayor of Tel Aviv supports Levin’s plan. Some of the spokespeople recited the mantra that “more changes to the reform are likely.”

It’s not their listeners they are trying to persuade, but first and foremost themselves. Likud members are burying their heads in the sand.

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