Opinion

Israel's Protests Are a No-confidence Vote in Its Corrupt Democratic System

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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A woman being carried away by police officers during the coronavirus economic protest in Tel Aviv, July 12, 2020.
A woman being carried away by police officers during the coronavirus economic protest in Tel Aviv, July 12, 2020. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

The situation in Israel after 12 years of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule is similar, in one sense, to that of the Arab countries that managed to rout their dictatorships in 2011 only to see chaos reign in their stead. Those dictatorships suppressed any form of political organization, so when the political turning point arrived, there were no established parties to run the country.

To Netanyahu’s credit, it must be said that he has not suppressed political organizations. He has simply bought off their leaders with ministerial and administrative positions, while at the same time fragmenting them.

LISTEN: Protests, pandemics and Netanyahu's day of reckoningCredit: Haaretz

Just look at the Labor Party, which founded the state but will disappear in the next election, even though it has two fat and happy ministers. Similarly, when the Yesh Atid party was founded, it represented the ultimate promise for the middle class. But the party quickly joined one of Netanyahu’s governments, and in the next election it lost half its Knesset seats. Incidentally, right-wing parties were also given this treatment by Netanyahu.

Therefore, the resounding question is how Israel arrived at a situation in which tens of thousands of demonstrators are thronging the streets – and surrounding the residence of a prime minister who enjoys the support of most Knesset members – for the purpose of ousting him, even though the job of ousting the prime minister is supposed to be done by the people’s representatives, who were elected in democratic elections.

This shows that the youth revolution isn’t against Netanyahu alone; it’s a kind of no-confidence vote in Israel’s corrupt democratic system. And it’s happening because most of the people ruling over us don’t actually represent the public. Instead, it turns out that they made it into the Knesset through all kinds of tricks and for the sake of ulterior motives.

A protest opposite the Prime Minister's Residence, July 2020.
A protest opposite the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, July 2020.Credit: Oren Ben Hakoon

After all, if they were truly representatives of a nation that wants to replace Netanyahu, nothing could be easier. They could vote no confidence in the government, and voila, there would be a new prime minister.

Under its second hat, this enormous protest is also against the Kahol Lavan party. One not-fine day, Benny Gantz was elected to serve as Knesset speaker, and since then, the people have lost faith in the party system.

Gantz, with his own two hands, vaporized the alternative to Netanyahu, and a majority of Knesset members ended up under the wing of a prime minister charged with major crimes. And had the Yamina party’s MKs not been humiliatingly exiled, the governing coalition would currently comprise 80 of the Knesset’s 120 MKs.

It’s refreshing and restorative to see thousands of young people boldly taking to the streets, despite the danger to themselves from both the police’s water cannons and the thugs of the far right, for the sake of a fairer and more egalitarian country. But we must admit that compared to the beauty in the streets, the situation in the Knesset is wretched even when it comes to opposition leader Yair Lapid, who hasn’t learned anything.

Now there’s even talk about renewing the alliance between Lapid’s Yesh Atid and Yamina, which, in all its previous incarnations, stood in Netanyahu’s shadow. And there’s no need to elaborate on Yamina’s racist doctrines.

Finally, this enormous protest is also against the justice system. Much of the public pinned its hopes on salvation coming from our shining temple of justice. It believed the Supreme Court would proclaim the self-evident in a ringing voice – that a criminal defendant can’t serve as prime minister.

But when attorney Dafna Holz-Lechner quoted former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who said that “when the citadel of justice falls, there’s no longer anyone to save the man being ground between the millstones of power,” she was rebuked by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, who said, “No citadel has fallen.”

Eleven justices unanimously told the people who had come to seek justice that they must heal their wounds by themselves, because the justices obey the letter of the law and won’t engage with its spirit of justice. And when the people entrusted with delivering justice back away from doing their job, the public seeks it in the city squares and intersections.

When I say “the nation rose up,” I mean the nation in its civic sense, not its ethnic one. Yes, Israel’s Arab citizens must be at the very heart of the changes that are taking shape these days, even if their allies of today disappointed them yesterday. For what matters is the future. And only if the future includes everyone will it be radiant and promising.

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