Israeli Politics Is Becoming Fascistic, Israeli Opposition Leader Warns

Isaac Herzog says more and more people in Israeli society, from artists to journalists to judges, face threats from the government

Chairman of Israel's opposition, MK Isaac Herzog, at Haaretz's Peace Conference. June 2017
Olivier Fitoussi

Chairman of Israel's opposition, MK Isaac Herzog, warned on Saturday that Israeli politics was undergoing a process of fascistization, with more and more segments of society being threatened by the government.

Speaking at a public event in the central city of Holon, Herzog, who is facing internal election in his Labor party, said Israel needed a strong and moderate political force to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

"We are undergoing a process of fascistization of Israeli politics. These are hard words but they are true. Artists, actors and playwrights are under threat, Supreme Court justices and judges generally are threatened, journalists are fired and are threatened, journalists and newspapers are under threat of being closed by the authorities, and now also academics are under threat and can say nothing," Herzog said, referencing the education minister's plan to enforce a new academic code of conduct, which would ban political speech by university professors in class.

 "This is how a country deteriorates," Herzog said. "Whoever is scared for the fate of the country and wants to stop this fascistization must support a large and moderate political bloc that can replace the current regime and save Israel's democracy."

Herzog is the chairman of the Labor party, which joined forces with Hatnua, a centrist party led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, to form the Zionist Union during the last election. The joint party finished second place, with 24 Knesset seats to Netanyahu's Likud's 30.

"The next election will be between a moderate political bloc that places Israel's interests at hearts and a country subservient to Bibi [Netanyahu]," he said.

Herzog also commented on the Trump administration's attempt to restart the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, which saw Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and special adviser to the Middle East, and Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special envoy to the region, hold talks with Netanyahu and the Palestinian leadership.

"There is a real fear that the current American effort will fail. The ramifications of a failure by the Americans to lead a regional process, centering around the Palestinians issue, could be a regional conflict," he said.