In Netanyahu's Israel, Liberals Must Rely on the Integrity of Fascists

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Kahanist leader Itamar Ben-Gvir at the Knesset's main hall, after being elected to parliament.
Kahanist leader Itamar Ben-Gvir at the Knesset's main hall, after being elected to parliament.Credit: Emil Salman
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Let there be no misunderstandings – there are gatekeepers in Israel. These are respectable people, whose presence adorns official meetings, sometimes the sounds of drums and trumpets announce their arrival. But some of those job holders have forgotten what the position entails. Go remind the attorney general what it means to be a legal adviser, go remind the president of the Supreme Court that she really is the president of the Supreme Court.

After 12 years of a near-autocracy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become accustomed to the idea that the expression “prime minister” means “Netanyahu” and on the other hand, many people have also become accustomed to the idea that the word “Netanyahu” means “prime minister.” This overlap between the position and the person filling it is already confusing not only the gatekeepers, but even the president who has accepted it. Despite his misgivings he didn’t find anyone except Netanyahu, who is under criminal indictment, to grant the mandate to form the government.

Well, the first lesson here is that all the nice terms related to democracy, the rule of law, or even a constitution (as in the great America) require brave men and women to guard them, to maintain them, to wipe off the dust that has accumulated over time. If not, everything will evaporate as though it never existed. It’s worth recalling that some totalitarian countries have a wonderful constitution, but de facto they have a wonderful dictatorship. Netanyahu is rushing there – the question is whether he will drag the entire country along with him. The present situation is not encouraging.

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The continued rule of any leader for many years, especially one who is graced with a dictatorial temperament, is a danger to democracy. Had former U.S. President Donald Trump continued to rule, some of the gatekeepers there would also have gotten cold feet, and we would be seeing corners being cut to approve any injustice committed by the man. The Constitution, which is a kind of sacred text for Americans, would have been tossed into the junk yard.

Therefore, the only immunity for a well governed country is public alertness. Just a short catnap, and democracy, even a limited democracy, is in danger. Supreme Court President Esther Hayut remarked that “no fortress [of the rule of law] will fall,” when she granted legitimacy to a man under criminal indictment, over a year ago, and already we are witnessing the collapse of fortresses, one after another: The Justice Ministry is limping, government ministries are not functioning, and everything is being implemented through deals between the prime minister and his replacement.

We have to tell every job holder, especially in the civil service, that at the fateful moment he may be the last bastion preventing the destruction of norms. They’ll tell you that it isn’t easy to confront a prime minister. Of course it isn’t easy, it’s difficult and even dangerous. But what did you think, dear gatekeeper, when you were appointed to this high office – that it was a joy ride? That’s the other side of the job. Honors and power – definitely. But at the moment of truth you have to justify your being chosen. If you aren’t courageous don’t approach the tender for attorney general – don’t even consider the job of legal consultant of a small public company.

Now we’re licking our wounds. After the president disappointed us, our eyes are turned to the two fascists, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, to remain faithful to their principles and continue to adhere to their sickening racism and refuse to join a Netanyahu government if the United Arab List supports it or abstains during its swearing in. What a sick joke! The democrats are pinning their hopes on the integrity of the successors of far-right extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Meanwhile the Arab street remains silent at the sight of the disgraceful scene taking place before our eyes: Arabs are granting legitimacy to a party whose goal is to expel them from the country. So let’s tell the good souls among the Arabs that in the future they shouldn’t bring their complaints only to the UAL, which authorized this, because in real time almost nobody raised a voice in opposition. Yes, anyone who doesn’t raise their voice against this disgraceful act is a partner to it, even if a silent one.

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