Editorial |

Kahanism Won. Israel Is Now Closing in on a Right-wing, Religious, Authoritarian Revolution

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Merchandise on sale in 2016 bearing the face of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the words "Kahane was right."
Merchandise on sale in 2016 bearing the face of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the words "Kahane was right."Credit: Lior Mizrahi

We need to wait for the final results in order to know the ultimate split between the blocs, but based on the exit polls published by Israel’s three main TV news stations on Tuesday evening, it’s already clear that the big winner in the country’s 25th Knesset elections is the chairman of Otzma Yehudit, Itamar Ben Gvir, and that the big loser is Israel.

Religious Zionism, the Knesset list that distorted the Zionist project and transformed it from the national home of the Jewish people into a project of conservative, right-wing, racist, religious Jewish supremacism in the spirit of Ben Gvir’s teacher and rabbi, Meir Kahane, is now the third largest political force in Israel. That is the true, chilling significance of the election held on Tuesday.

In recent years, Israel has become terrifyingly more extreme. Everything we were warned about is happening right before our eyes. Kahanism has been legitimized and spread, and on Tuesday at the polls outdid the party whose leaders are two former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff (the National Unity Party); the Kahanist slate is almost three times as large as the movement that founded Israel (the Labor Party).

While political forces on the left, the center and the right joined forces to fight against MK Benjamin Netanyahu, a more dangerous threat came into being.

“‘This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it,’” tweeted the chairman of the Religious Zionism party, MK Bezalel Smotrich. “Today, Religious Zionism makes history with the greatest achievement for a national religious party since the establishment of the state,” he added. His joy should rattle the calm of every Israeli.

Although as noted, it is still too early to tell how the political blocs will form, as of this writing, Netanyahu might return to government. His apparent coalition will allow him to carry out his plot against Israeli democracy, including a fatal blow against the justice system.

Moreover, that coalition might demand this of him. In such a revolution, a number of destructive steps might be taken.

Here are some examples: Fire the attorney general; split the role of attorney general; legislate an override clause that will allow the Knesset to legislate whatever it wants to – even laws that are unconstitutional; allow the Knesset to select Supreme Court justices; restrict freedom of expression; and persecute journalists, Arabs, leftists and members of the LGBTQ community.

We have to hope that the appearance of the blocs will change when all the votes are counted, and that Netanyahu will not be able to form a nightmare coalition, which hinges on the votes of the Kahanists.

Israel is now on the verge of a right-wing, religious, authoritarian revolution, whose goal is to decimate the democratic infrastructure on which the country was built. This may be a black day in Israel’s history.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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