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What a Netanyahu Comeback Could Mean for Abortion Rights

Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram
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Benjamin Netanyahu, Arye Dery and Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset, in 2019.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Arye Dery and Yaakov Litzman in the Knesset, in 2019.Credit: Emil Salman
Uzi Baram
Uzi Baram

People the world over were shocked. The United States, the symbol of democracy, and its Constitution, which was synonymous with concern for individual freedom, decided to return itself to the beginning of the previous century.

The Supreme Court ruling, which revoked the right to abortion, came at the right time. It is challenging American society and suddenly exposing the gap between religious and conservative Republicans from Alabama and Texas, and the “American Spirit,” which is responsible for immortal artistic and cultural creations and is famous for its tolerance. Supporters of the ruling want a United States in the spirit of the benighted Middle Ages, and its opponents will have to wage a determined battle to change the face of their country.

Israel heads to fifth election, and its democracy is on the line

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I recall two visits to the United States that were a good reflection of this different spirit. One was in San Francisco, in 1977. Mayor Dianne Feinstein, who later became an important senator, told me that in order to obtain a majority of votes in the city council, she had added the “gays’” party to the coalition. I confess that my jaw dropped in astonishment in light of her decision, the likes of which I had never encountered.

The second visit was when I was a government minister – at the convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Nashville, Tennessee. Pamphlets were distributed there which explained that women’s right to abortion was opposed to the divine commandment, since God must not be interrupted in the process of creation and every fetus is part of the act of creation.

The upcoming election to the Knesset is liable to lead to a revolution similar to the U.S. constitutional revolution that has shocked the entire world. And it’s not because there have been no prime ministers representing the nationalist camp – there have been five of them. But Benjamin Netanyahu is different. His return to power would herald a revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen here.

Religious Zionism MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir are not merely a small messianic partner to a large nationalist movement. The two are not an exception on the landscape of the Likud movement – members such as May Golan, Shlomo Karhi and quite a few others swear that like them, they support the idea of redemption.

This is a Likud that is different from the party of Menachem Begin. Its members are determined to carry out the revolution – to achieve political control over the judicial system – not only because of the defendant’s attempts to escape trial, but because they accept the doctrine that he expounded when he stood at the entrance to the court and cursed all of the judicial system’s branches.

Shas, which “suffered” from the strong arm of that system, will be happy to get rid of it, and the Ashkenazi Hasidim won’t accept the fact that MK Yaakov Litzman was forced to leave the Knesset because he believed that the rulings of the admor of Gur take priority over those of the High Court of Justice.

Moreover, the New Right will also grant a seal of approval to anti-Arab racism and will question the legitimacy of their membership in the Knesset, once they are defined as an “enemy” and as “supporters of terror.” This decision does not contradict the assumption that if Netanyahu were in desperate need of the vote of United Arab List MK Mansour Abbas, he would even appoint him foreign minister. The attitude to the media and to cultural and artistic works will also be influenced by their ultranationalist opinions.

I am not convinced that the Supreme Court will defeat America, since the rebellion against it will gradually intensify. Neither am I certain that Netanyahu’s coalition will come to power. The struggle by supporters of democracy in the United States and in Israel is what will determine their future.



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