Opinion

Israel's Last Chance to Stop the Coup D’état

Protesters at rally calling for Netanyahu's resignation, Tel Aviv, November 30, 2019.
Oded Balilty,AP

The expectation that Israeli politics would oust a rotten prime minister from his fortress on Balfour Street is hardly feasible. The political arena operates almost solely based on political interests, so we need another government institution such as the legal system, whose raison d’être is based on different values and commitments, to intervene and force the prime minister out.

It’s interesting: The same right wing that’s demanding an overt politicization of the legal system through the appointment of “our people” to key positions is now claiming that the legal system is already totally politicized (in favor of “our enemies,” of course), and therefore isn’t allowed to criticize anyone and make decisions about democratic government.

Unfortunately, history teaches that the current legislative branch has ceased to be a separate entity that can help balance the executive branch; it’s an arm of the cabinet. In effect, of the three branches of modern democracy, only two remain.

The argument by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the judicial branch is also tainted by political considerations is designed to remove the last democratic entity capable of blocking the unreasonable decisions by a failed government. And that government is trying with its last ounce of strength to maintain exclusive control over the legislative-executive branch.

It’s actually the crude attempt by Netanyahu and his followers to prevent the judiciary from having its say that constitutes an overt coup d’état. To preserve our democracy, the attorney general must intervene immediately and inform the prime minister that, for the time being, he may not continue in his position. In the present situation of the absence of an elected government and the chaos of two or three general elections within one year, our legislative-executive branch is incapable of carrying out its mission on its own, nor is there any point in expecting it to do so.

A close look at another democracy, the United States, proves that this is exactly how politics works there too. While the Democrats in Congress are trying with all their might to impeach Donald Trump, it’s clear that as long as the Senate is controlled by the Republicans, the impeachment attempt will fail, just as the attempt to impeach Bill Clinton failed because his party had a majority in the Senate.

The legendary success of the impeachment process against Richard Nixon – he was forced to resign – was possible only because the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. There too, political interests are the determining factor, and only the judicial branch (which absurdly, is also political in the United States) is capable of providing the balance.

If the attorney general doesn’t want to uproot the judiciary entirely from its role and leave the legislative-executive branch as the sole ruler, he must immediately break his silence and announce that Netanyahu must be declared incapacitated. If not, he himself will be responsible for the fact that Israel is turning into a dictatorship of the ruling party, which was not even elected, without any restrictions by the judiciary.

That’s the situation today in Turkey, in Venezuela, apparently in Hungary, and in another shameful selection of backward countries where the judges are openly hounded. In Israel, will we see for the first time an attorney general who plans to surrender to Netanyahu and his politician friends and silence the judicial branch so that they alone will remain in power?