After Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous government turned the Knesset opposition into a feckless procedural ornament, the prime minister’s pending right-wing/ultra-Orthodox/settler government plans to do the same thing to the Supreme Court. The justices may occasionally dare to criticize, but they won’t be able to influence government decisions or public policy.
The only person right now who can prevent the establishment of such a government is Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman. While he’ll probably have a hard time staying outside the cabinet, it turns out that those who have maintained ties of mutual respect with him, like Kahol Lavan’s Yair Lapid, were prescient.
Getting close to Lieberman’s voters isn’t just opportunism. In the right-wing bloc only they, and perhaps a handful of Likud voters in the center of the country, share any of the secular-moderate-liberal worldview of the political center. That’s why they could also help in the effort to restore sanity.
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They must first be assured of the strength of centrist forces like Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan, which isn’t leftist in any way. The left, for its part, will have to understand that it has been tossed aside, unwanted, and that its leaders' efforts to dive in now and launch protests and other acts of rebellion will only put off the moderates and undermine the effort to build broad popular support for a policy of opposition and change.
The big question now is how we can enlist the greater public in foiling the prime minister’s plans to neutralize the Supreme Court. After all, it’s clear that Netanyahu’s aim is an Erdogan-type dictatorship, as the government’s opponents continue to dutifully supply the funds for it. Recruiting masses of people, certainly the 1.126 million who voted for Kahol Lavan (compared with the 1.14 million who voted for Likud) will be extremely difficult. The chances for an effective protest campaign are small. Other creative steps are necessary.
Above all, there’s no choice but to think about Tel Aviv. Without the engine of Israel’s real capital, with all its businesses and entrepreneurs, Netanyahu and Israel can’t survive. Therefore, Tel Aviv, most of whose residents voted for Kahol Lavan and other opposition parties, must be enlisted to fill a key role in the struggle to prevent harm to the judicial system. The mission of Kahol Lavan’s leaders is to recruit the city’s leaders and major businesses to put intense (albeit discreet) pressure on Netanyahu.
The issue is important enough that even the more statesmanlike-types in Kahol Lavan would feel comfortable recruiting machers in the city’s business sector in this vital democratic effort. The goal isn’t to undermine democracy, but to defend it.
Something else that can be done immediately is to make clear to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit the gravity of the effort to buy time or even totally postpone the proceedings against Netanyahu in the corruption cases against him. If, for example, all 35 Kahol Lavan legislators ambushed Mendelblit in his office and demanded that he immediately do what’s required of him, it would surely make an impression.
If 35 Knesset members, representing more than a million citizens, sat in his office and demanded that he ditch the evasiveness, he’d get the message. That’s how you build a resistance.
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