Protecting Israel's democracy from Dangerous Bills
While I have been enjoying my time in Israel, I have found myself on edge the entire time. The political situation both in my native USA and my adoptive Israel has been as tumultuous as ever. Between the Parkland shooting in February, the omnibus spending bill, and the reconciliation of the Koreas, there has been a lot happening on the US and World news front. However, as the summer session of the Knesset begins, it seems that the situation in Israel is about to take center stage for me.
There are two bills that the Knesset is currently considering that seem to undermine the ideals of Israeli democracy. The first is the so-called “Nation-State” bill, which will formally enshrine Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. There are multiple anti-democratic provisions in this bill, including the instruction of the justice system to put Israel’s Jewish character before its democracy, the removal of Arabic as an official language, and allowing for the establishment of Jewish-only communities. This bill has passed a first reading, but reportedly will go no further, as there will be changes made to the bill.
The second bill, discussed in IRAC’s newsletter, could be considered the more dangerous of the two. This bill would allow the Knesset to overturn any Supreme Court decision with a 61 vote (50% plus one) majority. The Supreme Court has been one of IRAC’s greatest allies, as it has overturned several discriminatory pieces of legislation. This bill would take away that power, as a simple majority in the Knesset would be able to overturn any court decision that the coalition disagrees with.
These two bills endanger Israeli democracy as we know it. The nation-state bill removes the democratic character of the state of Israel from its basic laws, leaving it as a Jewish state only. The Supreme Court bill eliminates the most important check in the Israeli government, and gives one branch of government, the legislative Knesset, full political power. The passage of both of these bills will destroy the only democracy in the Middle East from the inside.
With this dangerous legislation making its way through the Knesset, I was reminded of a scene from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In this scene, Chancellor Palpatine officially announces that the Republic will be reorganized into the Galactic Empire, to cheers from the Senate. Padmé Amidala, played by Natalie Portman, then says, “so this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgxZr6LLS34). It is a time of turmoil in both Israel and the world, and Israeli democracy must be preserved.
Until Next Time,