Peter Myers Digest: Israel and Netanyahu

(1) Ex-Mossad Chief: Netanyahu coalition is full of racist lunatics, worse than Ku Klux Klan
(2) Tablet mag says End U.S. Aid to Israel, to stop American manipulation
(3) Economist on Israel’s constitutional crisis: only one house, but Judges have Veto power
(4) Netanyahu has lost control of Israel to Levin & Ben-Gvir, who want to deport Palestinians
(5) US Jewish Federations oppose Netanyahu & Reasonableness Standard Law
(6) Zionist Federation of Australia opposes the Reasonableness Standard Law

(1) Ex-Mossad Chief: Netanyahu coalition is full of racist lunatics, worse than Ku Klux Klan

Ex-Mossad Chief: Netanyahu Government Worse Than Ku Klux Klan


SATURDAY, JUL 29, 2023 – 11:05 AM

The former head of Israel’s Mossad says the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is filled with “extreme lunatics” that are “a lot worse” than the Ku Klux Klan.

In a Thursday interview, Tamir Pardo, who led the Israeli intelligence agency from 2011 to 2016, said national security minister Itavar Ben Gvir and finance minister Bezalel Smotrich represent “horrible racist parties” — respectively, Jewish Power and Religious Zionism — that make the Klan pale in comparison.

<> Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo decried the presence of “horrible racist parties” in Netanyahu’s government (via CTECH)

However, Pardo said suggestions that Netanyahu is being coerced by extremists amounds to “urban legend,” telling Kan radio, “The leader has lost his mind. Nothing that has happened would have happened if the prime minister didn’t lead this process.”

Substantiating the comparison, Pardo pointed to Smotrich’s call for the wholesale destruction of an entire Palestinian village. In the wake of the killing of two Israeli brothers, Smotrich liked a tweet in which a West Bank Israeli mayor called for the government to “wipe out the village of Huwara today.”

When asked why he “liked” it, Smotrich said, <> “Because I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it,” adding that “God forbid” private Israelis take matters into their own hands.

Israeli settlers are rampaging through the Turmus Aya village.

Fires can be seen from miles. People are locked inside their homes. Multiple vehicles & farms burned down…

All with total impunity & ZERO consequences!

Yesterday settlers burned & damaged 134 cars & wounded 34! <>

— Muhammad Shehada (@muhammadshehad2) <> June 21, 2023

Previously, <> Smotrich called for Palestinian mothers to be separated from Jews in the country’s maternity wards, saying, “[My wife] would not want to sleep next to someone who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby in twenty years,”

Meanwhile, security minister Ben-Gvir decorated his home with a poster of mass murderer Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 killed 28 Muslim worshippers and wounded 125 in the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre.

Exposing the hypocrisy of the Israeli government, Pardo said that if a different country adopted laws against Jews akin to the anti-Palestinian laws being passed by the Knesset, it would be considered anti-semitic. For example, this week saw the passage of a law empowering about half of Israeli’s small towns to <> bar Palestinians from moving in.

Within hours of the Israeli president meeting with President Biden and addressing Congress, the Israeli occupation government bulldozed the farming plot of a Palestinian community, in the occupied West Bank<>

— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) <> July 21, 2023

Pardo has been outspoken against the Netanyahu government’s drive to reform Israel’s judiciary system. <> Middle East Eye notes that in a speech against that effort, Pardo said that if a law was passed to remove the Supreme Court’s ability to apply a “reasonableness” standard, Israel would “be similar to Iran and Hungary – ostensibly a democracy, in practice a dictatorship.”

That law was passed Monday, following months of enormous protests across the country. Pardo pins the division on Netanyahu: “A nation has been torn in two and the prime minister does not blink and shows happiness on his face.”

(2) Tablet mag says End U.S. Aid to Israel, to stop American manipulation of the Jewish state

End U.S. Aid to Israel

America’s manipulation of the Jewish state is endangering Israel and American Jews

By Jacob Siegel And Liel Leibovitz

JULY 17, 2023

Two years ago, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously wept in Congress after changing her vote on funding Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system from “no” to “present.” The New York Times said that the incident showed progressive members of “the Squad” “caught between their principles and the still powerful pro-Israel voices in their party, such as influential lobbyists and rabbis.” (The line was later removed with no correction.) In People magazine, the congresswoman’s procedural maneuver to avoid voting was appreciated for its pathos: “Ocasio-Cortez Opens Up About Israel Iron Dome Vote That Left Her in Tears: ‘Yes, I Wept.'” In the end, the resolution passed the House 420-9.

Ocasio-Cortez’s bit of Kabuki theater fit neatly into the premade mythology of a domineering Israel lobby, popularized by academic John Mearsheimer, whose views are experiencing a burst of popularity in isolationist corners of the right. His central claim—that America has been pressured by an all-powerful, determined ethnoreligious lobby into acting against its own interests—is made explicit in references to “influential lobbyists and rabbis,” in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s tweets that U.S. support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins,” and in graphics like The New York Times’ infamous “Jew-tracker” that policed support for Barack Obama’s Iran deal according to the religion of members of Congress.

Belief in the mythic power of “the lobby” rests on a common article of faith that is shared by Israel’s loudest critics and most fervent supporters—namely, that U.S. military Aid forms the cornerstone of the “special relationship” between the two nations, and that this Aid is a gift that powerfully benefits Israel. Cutting off Israel’s D.C. cash pipeline, it’s assumed, would dramatically alter the balance of power in the Middle East: in one scenario by endangering Israel’s security, and in another by forcing its recalcitrant leaders to accept the enlightened proposals of Western policymakers.

While this fantasy version of the U.S.-Israeli relationship is useful for stirring up emotions and demonstrating partisan loyalties, it does more to flatter the self-importance of Israel-Aid opponents and supporters alike than it does to describe an increasingly warped reality, in which Israel ends up sacrificing far more value in return for the nearly $4 billion it annually receives from Washington. That’s because nearly all military Aid to Israel—other than loan guarantees, which cost Washington nothing, the U.S. gives Israel no other kind of Aid—consists of credits that go directly from the Pentagon to U.S. weapons manufacturers.

In return, American payouts undermine Israel’s domestic defense industry, weaken its economy, and compromise the country’s autonomy—giving Washington veto power over everything from Israeli weapons sales to diplomatic and military strategy. When Washington meddles directly in Israel’s domestic affairs, as it does often these days, Israeli leaders who have lobbied for these payments—including current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—are simply reaping the rewards of their own penny-wise, pound-foolish efforts.

As the costs to Israel of U.S. Aid have skyrocketed over the past decade, the benefits of the relationship to the U.S. have only grown larger. Aid is popular with key voting blocs (few of them Jewish). It functions as a lucrative backdoor subsidy to U.S. arms makers, and provides Congress and the White House with a tool to leverage influence over a key strategic ally. The Israeli military, often ranked as the fourth-most powerful in the world, has become an adjunct to American power in a crucial region in which the U.S. has lost the appetite for projecting military force. Israeli intelligence functions as America’s eyes and ears, not just in the Middle East but in other key strategic theaters like Russia and Central Asia and even parts of Latin America. Controlling access to the output of Israel’s powerful high-tech sector is a strategic advantage for the U.S. that alone is worth many multiples of the credits Israel receives. Meanwhile, the optics of bringing the snarling Israeli attack dog to heel helps credential the U.S. as a global power that plays fair—but must also be feared.

The alternative to this unequal relationship based on dependence is a more forthrightly transactional relationship, which would allow Israel to benefit economically, diplomatically, and strategically.

It’s no wonder that one well-known regional expert we consulted, who served in high security-related positions in the U.S. government, was horrified when we proposed ending American Aid to Israel. When we asked which of our arguments were overstated or mistaken, this person answered: “None of them. But my job is to represent the American interest. Aid to Israel is the biggest bargain we have on our books. Ending it would be a disaster for us. I just don’t see who it benefits.”

We do. The alternative to this unequal relationship based on dependence is a more forthrightly transactional relationship, which would allow Israel to benefit economically, diplomatically, and strategically. It might also, we believe, diminish the current American infatuation with treating the Jewish state as a moral allegory in U.S. political psychodramas, rather than as a tiny country in the Middle East with its own local challenges and considerable advantages to offer the highest bidder. The current hyperpolarized atmosphere around Israel is not good for anyone—not for an America whose political class is looking to distract people from its own failings; not for a majority of the world’s Jews who live in Israel; and not for American Jews, who have come to identify their civic role with serving as props in an expiring piece of political theater. When the curtain comes down, they’ll find themselves without a role—and cut off from the 3,000-year-long Jewish historical continuum that is, or was, their inheritance.

Ending Aid would not mean the end of the U.S.-Israeli military alliance, intelligence sharing, trade, or any mutual affinity between the countries. Rather, it would allow both sides to see what each is getting in return for what. In the words of retired IDF Major General Gershon Hacohen: “Once we are not economically dependent on them, the partnership can flourish on its own merits.”

Contrary to the blather about an “eternal relationship,” the U.S.-Israel alliance is a fairly recent coinage. America was not particularly involved in the creation of the Jewish state. When Israel declared its independence and was attacked by eight Arab armies in 1948, Washington extended diplomatic recognition to the new nation but refused to sell it arms, even pressuring other countries to deny weapons to the Israelis.

In 1956, when Czechoslovakia, then a satellite of the Soviet Union, sent a shipment of weapons to Egypt, Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion implored American President Dwight Eisenhower “not to leave Israel without an adequate capacity for its self-defense.” But Eisenhower believed that a policy of “evenhandedness” would allow his administration to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict and strengthen America’s position in the Middle East, so he refused the request. When Israel, in partnership with Britain and France, seized the Suez Canal, Eisenhower made them give it back, and aligned the U.S. with Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser—in what Eisenhower later described as one of the worst mistakes of his presidency.

Eisenhower’s approach to the Middle East would change during his later years in office, but not before the Israelis found a different superpower patron: France. In addition to gunboats and fighter planes, the French supplied the Israelis with their single greatest strategic asset to date—the country’s nuclear program, which by the mid 1960s had produced several nuclear bombs despite the best efforts of President John F. Kennedy and his State Department to stop it. France continued to be Israel’s leading military supporter until the runup to the Six-Day War, when French leader Charles de Gaulle imposed an embargo on weapons sales to the country in expectation of a Soviet-backed Arab victory. After Israel took out the Egyptian and Syrian air forces on the ground in the first six hours of the war using French Mirages, it became clear that de Gaulle had bet wrong—and a newly powerful Israel entered the market for a new great power backer.

This, then, is when the U.S. began substantial arms sales to Israel, picking up the card that de Gaulle had discarded and playing it back against the Soviet Union, which as the dominant power in the region was backing the Arab states. From the beginning, the U.S. military partnership with Israel came with political conditions. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel’s fate hung in the balance until Henry Kissinger convinced Richard Nixon to resupply Israel with ammunition for U.S.-made weapons systems, which America was withholding. In 1975, the Ford administration suspended arms sales as a tactic to pressure Israel into signing a new “Sinai accord” with Egypt.

Formal U.S. military Aid to Israel, as opposed to loans and cash-on-delivery arms sales, started in 1979, when the Carter administration offered it as a carrot to get Israel to agree to withdraw from all of Sinai as part of a peace deal with Egypt. The same deal provided a comparable sum of U.S. military Aid and arms to Egypt, for many years the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign military financing after Israel. Notably, the Aid to Egypt was given despite the country’s displaying no capacity to deploy military force outside its own borders—the goal being to achieve a rough form of U.S.-brokered parity between the two recent foes.

These days, the appearance of massive U.S. largesse to Israel reinforces the claim that America provides Israel with a “blank check.” In 2019, leading liberal and progressive candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for president, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Julian Castro, all voiced support for making Aid a condition of Israel allowing the U.S. to dictate its internal politics. “I would use the leverage of $3.8 billion—it is a lot of money,” said Sanders. “We cannot give ‘carte blanche’ to the Israeli government.”

Sanders is right that $3.8 billion is a lot of money. But he is either irresponsibly mistaken or being deliberately manipulative in his claim that it is offered “carte blanche.” U.S. financing for the Israeli military more than pays for itself, and has always had conditions attached. Aid to Israel has never been an act of charity or a payment extorted by “the lobby,” but a tool to advance American interests. The list of these interests can change—historically, it has included counterterrorism, nuclear nonproliferation, and a balance of military power that favors America’s dominant strategic position in the Middle East. What doesn’t change is that America’s foreign policy relationships are always rooted in the calculations of American politicians and elites.

Shortly before he left office, President Obama signed the largest Aid package in history, committing the U.S. to send Israel $38 billion over a decade starting in 2018. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) capped the efforts of an administration that had spent the previous eight years downgrading the U.S.-Israeli alliance to the point of spying on pro-Israel members of Congress. After all the acrimony over the Iran deal, the landmark Aid agreement shut up Obama’s critics by “proving” that he was in fact a stalwart ally of Israel, even as he was gifting Iran with a nuclear bomb—which the Iranians would presumably use to fulfill their threats to “wipe the Zionist entity off the map.” Even Obama’s archnemesis Netanyahu thanked the U.S. president for the “historic deal.”

In reality, the MOU advanced Obama’s goal of paying lip service to Israeli fears while constraining future Israeli actions, in line with a new American strategic architecture in which the interests of traditional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia would be “balanced” with those of their mortal enemy, Iran. It deepened Israel’s reliance on U.S. arms and military spending, while extending Washington’s reach into Israel’s domestic affairs. Paradoxically, the “most generous” package ever was an instrument to downgrade the U.S. commitment to Israel. The MOU purchased both influence over Israel and the acquiescence of American Jews who were expected, in the face of such public generosity, to go along with the White House policy of strengthening Iran, while upholding the narrative that Obama was Israel’s “best friend.”

Why is it important to present Israel as America’s best friend, and as central to American decision-making? Because it’s easier than telling the truth, which is that many American foreign Aid arrangements are ultimately rooted in enriching a morally profligate arms industry that is financially headquartered in the U.S. but invested in conflict on a global scale. Recently, U.S. military Aid to both Israel and the Palestinian territories has been dwarfed by U.S. Aid to Ukraine, which last year totaled over $75 billion. That’s more Aid than Israel has received from the U.S. during the entirety of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Last week, President Biden authorized the military to deploy up to 3,000 reservists to Europe in support of Ukraine’s war effort. There are, at present, an undisclosed number of American troops operating in Ukraine alongside the other 80-some countries where the U.S. has forces stationed. By contrast, no American soldier or pilot has ever risked their lives for Israel, and no American missile or aircraft has ever flown in Israel’s defense. Such are the myths and realities of “the lobby.”

In any age of political decay, social dysfunction, economic volatility, and geopolitical danger, it has been convenient and comforting to blame the Jews. The current American elite is not interested in frank public discourse about its own complicity in our national troubles. Ending Aid won’t end the practice of scapegoating Jews, but it will remove a favorite decoy and dog whistle of American public officials, administrators, bureaucrats, philanthropists, and thought leaders. It might even force them to be more honest with the public—not least about what our Middle East strategy is actually supposed to accomplish.

The Israeli political class has known about the lopsided reality of the U.S.-Israel arrangement for some time, but for the past eight or nine years seems to have decided the farce had some value. For them, U.S. Aid is valuable not because it is a good deal for Israel’s military-tech complex, but because the appearance of close strategic alignment with the U.S. serves as a public, tangible pledge, renewed annually, of Great Power backing, in a world that is largely hostile to the country’s existence. Even now, as it’s clear from Washington’s courtship of Iran that U.S. security pledges no longer mean what they once did (ask the Afghans, or before them the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and a long list of other former recipients of U.S. military Aid), the value of these pledges to Israel has been based on the belief that other parties believe in them—and are therefore constrained accordingly. The point is for the world’s only hyperpower to be seen publicly putting a big diamond ring on Israel’s finger, even if the diamond is actually made of glass. The more “special” the relationship appears to others, the better.

As the price of its dependency, Israel is now being forced to downgrade its own defense industries. Whereas the previous MOU contained a special provision for Off-Shore Procurement (OSP) that allowed Israel to spend around 26% of the Aid it received on domestic products, the new terms require that all Aid received from Washington be spent inside the U.S. In 2018, Israel’s Defense Ministry projected that the new MOU would cost the country $1.3 billion annually in lost revenue and cause the loss of some 22,000 jobs. Moshe Gafni, a former chairman of the Knesset’s financial committee, warned of the deal’s “severe ramifications for the delicate fabric of the State of Israel, harming its security.” A separate assessment in 2020 by the Israeli think tank INSS, concluded that “anywhere between several thousand and 20,000 of the 80,000 jobs in the defense industries in Israel will be lost.”

In return for accepting Obama’s Aid package, Israel has now become dangerously reliant on U.S. military technology. The result of this enforced dependency, according to the retired General Hacohen, is stunting the IDF. “Israel is so addicted to advanced U.S. platforms, and the U.S. weaponry they deliver, that we’ve stopped thinking creatively in terms of operational concepts,” Hacohen told the U.S. publication Defense News in 2016—two years before the new MOU went into effect.

This is especially dangerous because, having short-circuited Israeli competition and dumped tens of billions of dollars worth of equipment into Ukraine, the U.S. is increasingly having trouble arming itself—let alone anyone else. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found systemic problems in the U.S. procurement system leading to widespread delays. The report found that more than half of the 26 major defense acquisition programs under review “had yet to deliver operational capability” and were delayed due to “supplier disruptions, software development delays, and quality control deficiencies.” And what does get produced often isn’t up to par. As part of its “special arrangement,” Israel gets preferential access to the F-35, but is then locked into a fleet of aircraft both riddled with technical problems and a poor fit for Israel’s strategic air priorities. At the risk of stating the obvious, it would be nice to be able to shop on the open market.

The consequences for Israel’s economy and to the country’s security posture will get more severe in coming years as the full bill from the MOU comes due. According to a congressional report, the “phasing out [of] Off-Shore Procurement (OSP) is to decrease slowly until FY2024, and then phase out more dramatically over the MOU’s last five years, ending entirely in FY2028.” As a consequence, the report notes “some Israeli defense contractors are merging with U.S. companies or opening U.S. subsidiaries”—in other words, transferring their personnel and capacities from Israel to the U.S.

So, in return for a so-called “Aid package” that actually costs Israel a fortune, the Jewish state is now tethered to its benefactor’s Iran-centric foreign policy and prohibited from capitalizing on its own considerable capabilities, while granting the U.S. access to its best military and scientific minds at a heavily reduced rate of pennies on the dollar. In turn, the ostensible largesse of this arrangement transforms Israel into a scapegoat for every lunatic conspiracy theorist in America to indulge in Jew-baiting in the guise of pontificating about “U.S. foreign policy.”

Had this been 1981, say, you could safely argue that Israel hardly has any choice but to depend on the kindness of strangers and disregard any unpleasant blowback. Back then, the Jewish state worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure that President Reagan’s sale of the AWACS weapons system to the Saudis came with a consolation prize for Jerusalem as well.

But the Israel of 2023 is immeasurably wealthier and more powerful than the dusty socialist country of 40 years ago, where local electrical grids could be overloaded by American hair dryers.

The growth of Israel’s independent capacities are particularly obvious in the military arena. According to some estimates, Arab states purchased about a quarter of Israel’s $12.5 billion arms exports in 2022, a number that keeps growing. Add to that India, a growing market—and the recent buyer of a $1.1 billion Phalcon advanced early-warning system—and you have a robust nation perfectly capable of striking bilateral deals with partners that aren’t superpowers hellbent on containing and downgrading their allies.

Still, a small but powerful cadre of Israelis seems invested in the idea that nothing has changed. Certain former generals, politicians, investors, and intellectuals in Israel—often graduates of elite American universities who enjoy strong ties to American corporations and NGOs—can’t imagine a scenario other than fealty to the Big Brother across the ocean. They see Washington not only as a crucial ally, but as the center of all power and legitimacy. It is the U.S., after all, that bestows fellowships in prestigious think tanks and sabbaticals at Harvard that have become essential markers of global professional success—and who helps them fight their enemies at home. While this small, American-adjacent clique is increasingly finding themselves on the unkind end of the voters’ ballots (see under: Barak, Ehud), they maintain a powerful ability to stoke fears about how displeasing America could threaten the entire Jewish future.

In this, they are joined by Jewish communal leaders stateside. It is a bitter irony that organized pro-Israel political advocacy in America places “support full security assistance to Israel” at the top of its list of policy objectives. In doing so, these groups are setting a strategic trap in which being “pro-Israel” requires supporting a policy of U.S. soft power projection that conditions Israel to act as a satrap of Washington, and go along with a regional policy that poses a direct threat to the country’s longer-term prosperity and survival.

Indeed, in order to maintain their own power, the entire cosmos of American Jewish organizations, with few exceptions, is now dedicated almost exclusively to maintaining an arrangement that cripples Israel’s capacity for independent action, while locking American Jews into a permanent posture of appearing to suck the U.S. government dry in order to fund their own niche overseas project.

American Jews have been herded into understanding Israel through the narrow prism of a 60-year-old political deal that has passed its sell-by date.

This goes deeper than politics. Instead of looking at the Jewish state through the prism of a commitment that is as old as human civilization itself, and whose stakes include the physical survival of the Jewish people, American Jews have been herded into understanding Israel through the narrow prism of a 60-year-old political deal that has passed its sell-by date.

With Israel and Israelis increasingly a mystery to them, the only issue around which American Jews feel permitted to organize these days is antisemitism—and even then only as defined from above. Hence, we aren’t actually allowed to look at the major sources and manifestations of this phenomenon, which are anti-Zionism and attacks on religious Jews, but instead are urged to sign on to celebrity-driven, Instagram-friendly messaging campaigns whose actual beneficiaries—like those of other viral “justice” crusades—are, at best, unclear.

The whole charade has to end. External hostility has more or less been the Jewish fate since the time of the ancient Greeks. Yet Jews are still here—having somehow survived the previous 3,000 years and revived their historic homeland again without relying on U.S. military Aid packages or officially sanctioned declarations against antisemitism that elevate people who hate us.

The irony is that American history, Jewish history, and the modern State of Israel already share a deeper, richer link than any provided by Aid or social media: a belief in divine election, which also guided the Founding Fathers as they struggled to erect the political and moral foundations of the early republic.

If that sounds too lofty, too overblown, too religious, the same point stands on grounds of mere self-preservation, as evidenced by the history of Jews in Egypt, in Spain, and in Vienna whose survival strategy was to seek protection by those who happened to be in power at a given moment. The imperative to transcend such a strategy is not insular or backwards; it’s the powerful realpolitik of Jewish history.

Cut the stranglehold of Aid. Let America pursue its interests. Let Israel, too, follow its own interests, which sometimes align with those of Washington and sometimes don’t. If Israelis think it will ensure their security to decapitate the Iranian regime, or give the Golan Heights on a platter to Bashar Assad, or develop their own homemade fighter plane and sell it to India or Saudi Arabia, let them go ahead. And let American Jews who care about being Jewish focus on observance and learning their people’s history, instead of pimping for Lockheed Martin. If the commitment to Israel is deeper than mere political fashion, if it is more than a secularized idolatry, then it’s time to prove it—by smashing the ideological idols of America’s Israel debate.

(3) Economist on Israel’s constitutional crisis: only one house, but Judges have Veto power

Leaders | A sad day
Israel has lurched closer to constitutional chaos
But there are still ways to step back from the brink

Jul 26th 2023

Tisha b’av is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. A time of mourning and fasting, it marks the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem—the result, in part, of infighting among the Jewish people. This year the commemoration began on July 26th, two days after Israel’s government passed a law aimed at dramatically weakening the country’s Supreme Court. The reform’s many opponents see it as an act of self-destruction. The echo of Tisha B’Av only deepened their sorrow.

The vote on July 24th means that the Supreme Court will no longer be able to overturn government decisions on the ground of “reasonableness”, which critics had seen as a blank cheque for judicial meddling. It has prompted a furious reaction among many Israelis. The opposition boycotted the final vote. Israelis once again flooded into the streets to protest. Trade unions are talking about a general strike. Thousands of army reservists have vowed not to turn up for duty. The day after the vote Morgan Stanley downgraded Israeli sovereign debt. In a striking criticism, America, Israel’s closest ally, described the government’s move as “unfortunate”.

The outrage reflects—and has deepened—the divisions within Israel over the most fundamental questions surrounding the country’s democratic and Jewish character. If infighting is not to threaten the Jewish state once again, politicians from all sides need to step back from the brink and search for a constitutional reform that commands broad support.

Whether or not Binyamin Netanyahu wished it, the judicial reforms have become his defining policy. The prime minister had delayed a vote in March to give time for compromise, but talks went nowhere. Even as he waited to vote in the Knesset this week, he tried in vain to persuade his allies to delay once again. Instead his coalition of far-right and ultra-religious parties forced through the reform. Just a day out of hospital for heart surgery, Mr Netanyahu looked exhausted. He faces charges of corruption that Supreme Court reform may help dismiss. By caving in to his far-right partners’ threats to resign, he has made clear that he puts his own political survival above all else. He has thus given the extremists the upper hand.

Even the government’s fiercest critics agree that Israel’s judicial system needs reform. Many would place limits on use of the reasonableness standard, without abolishing it altogether. The committee that appoints judges has a majority of sitting justices and Bar Association representatives, leaving politicians in a minority. Because the right feels the court no longer reflects the country’s views, the idea that it is self-perpetuating is harmful.

However, the way the government has rammed through its changes has fed fears that the far-right means to clear any legal obstacles to its efforts to transform Israel, whether by changing the status of religion or by annexing parts of the Palestinians’ West Bank. After the vote, Yariv Levin, the hardline justice minister, declared that this was merely the first step in the coalition’s plans. Some worry that the government wants legislation that would skew the electoral system to make conservative victories more likely. Because the Knesset has only one chamber, Israel risks falling into majoritarian rule—a particular threat to secular Jews and minorities, including Israeli Arabs.

The Knesset is about to go into its summer recess. That gives two months to find a way to heal a divided country. Although Mr Netanyahu is concerned with his own political survival, he must realise that if the cost is ramming through the judicial reform, he will pay with his legacy. If he does not want to be remembered as the prime minister who weakened Israeli democracy, he needs to build consensus. If he cannot find that among politicians, he should establish a broad and inclusive constitutional convention that would codify the powers of parliament and the courts.

And if Mr Netanyahu fails? The task will fall to the Supreme Court. It has said it will hold off from hearing appeals against the law until September. If the coalition is determined to pursue the reforms to their full extent the court should strike down the law. It faces a terrible choice. As the first court to reject part of one of Israel’s basic laws, which is in effect the country’s stand-in constitution, the court would seem to be vindicating those who say it is out of control. But failing to do so would leave all of Israel’s institutions in peril.

Striking down the law would bring Israel’s constitutional crisis to a head. But that would force the country’s leaders to deal explicitly with how to preserve democracy. Israel’s founders failed to write a constitution because they could not agree on principles such as its relationship with the Palestinians and the role of religion. It has muddled through for 75 years. If the temple is not strengthened, it may start to crumble.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “A sad day”

(4) Netanyahu has lost control of Israel to Levin & Ben-Gvir, who want to deport Palestinians

Netanyahu lost control of Israel to Levin, Ben-Gvir

INSIDE POLITICS: Even if Levin and Ben-Gvir are the de facto prime ministers, the overwhelming responsibility for the deep abyss into which Israeli society is plunging rests with Netanyahu alone.

By TAL SHALEV Published: JULY 28, 2023 12:55

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s picture of the week, which he chose to depict on Monday evening at the beginning of his speech to the nation after the approval of the law to abolish the reasonableness standard, was from a video taken by journalist Haim Rivlin that went viral on Sunday.

Simultaneously, two huge demonstrations were taking place: the supporters of the judicial reform gathered in Tel Aviv to demonstrate in favor of the government, while the opponents of the legal coup gathered in Jerusalem to demonstrate against it.

There was lively movement on the escalators at the Yitzhak Navon train station in Jerusalem: on one side the opponents of the government went up and on the other side its supporters came down, and all of them carried flags in their hands.

“And then, despite the differences of opinion, each man reached out to his friend,” Netanyahu said, recognizing the viral moment that gave many, on both sides, a rare moment of camaraderie and hope. What a shame that he himself forgot this spirit of unity and statehood in the 24 hours preceding the speech, and closed the door on any attempt at compromise and agreement.

A few hours before the speech, the coalition headed by him, approved the most extreme and aggressive version of the law to abolish the reasonableness standard, completing the first step in the legal coup that is breaking apart the country, and leading it to the worst crisis in its history.

“[They shook hands]…as brothers. This is the nation of Israel, this is what we must aspire to,” Netanyahu said. What a shame that the main preoccupation of his sixth government is an act by a tyranny of the majority that is tearing Israeli society apart.

For about 30 weeks, more than two million people in total have taken to the streets: delivering speeches, shouting, disrupting, marching, setting up tents, publishing letters, signing petitions, warning that they will stop showing up to reserve service and volunteering in the IDF and other security forces, and begging the government to stop.

The security, economic, and political consequences of the legal coup are about to impose a disaster upon every citizen in the country. Prime Minister Netanyahu realized this already in March, in the first round of the legal coup, and therefore he stopped the judicial selection committee law just before it went up for a vote and went to the President’s Residence to hold negotiations. Four months later, he returned to the exact same spot, only this time, he didn’t stop.

Shortly after Netanyahu’s speech, a driver ran over protesters on Highway 531, the police used water cannons and skunk water in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, dozens of protesters and police officers needed medical treatment, and a kibbutznik in Hatzerim shot in the air toward right-wing demonstrators.

Netanyahu has lost control

ON THE eve of Tisha Be’av, the Israeli unity that Netanyahu spoke of in his speech soon faded away. Indeed, all of Israel are brothers: in chaos and violence. The damage to Israel’s social fabric and social cohesion is deepening, to the delight of our enemies. As Hassan Nasrallah diagnosed this week, it seems that Israel is on the way to collapse.

The real picture of the week, the one that Netanyahu did not mention in his speech, was from the drama that unfolded before the cameras during the long votes on the reasonableness standard law in the plenum. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tried many minutes to convince Justice Minister Yariv Levin to agree to the softening or postponement of the legislation, in order to reach out to the opposition to try to reach an agreement, and to stop the worsening reservist crisis in the IDF.

Gallant, with the help of Netanyahu’s close associate, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, ran amok in an attempt to bring compromise proposals. Levin strongly opposed all of them. And between the two sat the prime minister, as a kind of present-absent person: off, gray, and irrelevant. Even for some of his supporters, it was a heart-wrenching sight, which accurately reflected the dynamics in the government and who actually makes the decisions and controls matters.

On the outskirts of the table, outside the central frame, Levin was cheered on by the chairman of Otzma Yehudit, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who constantly reinforced the justice minister’s stubbornness. Levin and Ben-Gvir together thwarted the talks at the President’s Residence last month, when they pushed Netanyahu not to abide by the agreement and to push off the election of the coalition representative to the judicial selection committee.

When opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz announced in response the suspension of the talks, Levin and Ben-Gvir were the ones who pushed him to renew the unilateral legislation. And this week, they jointly thwarted the efforts of President Isaac Herzog and other important mediators and senior officials to reach a last-minute compromise: Netanyahu was right to announce a significant freeze on the continuation of the reform and a softened wording of the reasonableness standard that would win the support of the opposition, but Levin did not agree to a suspension of more than a few months, and Ben-Gvir backed him with his opposition to the compromise when he threatened to dissolve the government.

Until the very last moment, they put up a fortified front against Gallant’s campaign of supplication and prevented even the slightest change that would build some trust in the future and help calm the protest. And the stormy debate between the defense minister and the justice minister, which took place literally over the prime minister’s head, proved with certainty who the real bosses are in the right-wing government. It was a picture worth a thousand words.

Netanyahu tried to minimize the damage of the day in his prime ministerial statement in the evening, which he convened without journalists as is the custom, this time in order not to answer the difficult questions surrounding the concealment of his medical information from his recent cardiovascular incidents.

He proposed, after the act, to reopen talks with the opposition and set a deadline of November – a timetable that would allow the coalition to renew the legislation and unilaterally change the composition of the judicial selection committee in the next session, and once again no agreement would be reached.

The opposition rejected the proposal impolitely. “As everyone who was involved in the attempts to reach broad agreements found out, Benjamin Netanyahu is not really the prime minister of Israel. He is a prisoner of Levin and Rothman and Ben-Gvir. They decide, he does what they say,” said Lapid.

Some of Netanyahu’s associates say that the reasonableness standard law was just lip service to Levin, which would calm down the threat of a resounding resignation and give a legal achievement to the deep “Bibist” base who is disappointed that the 64th government fails to implement its policies.

Netanyahu even assured Likud members that from here on, Levin’s original reform was actually buried and would be promoted only with broad agreement. But given the chain of events so far, that’s a statement worth questioning. In every negotiation he and his emissaries conducted in the last months, Levin was the one in the end who made the decision, and Netanyahu was unable to impose his will. And with the food of the reform supporters, the appetite will also open, like Ben-Gvir’s salad bar, and for them – this is just the beginning.

THE MORNING after the approval of the reasonableness standard law, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi decided to move forward with his comprehensive reform of the media market, which politicizes the regulation of channels and broadcasters and grants exceptional government benefits to Channel 14, the right-wing media body free of any criticism of the government.

At the same time, United Torah Judaism decided that this is the right time to promote the Basic Law – Torah Study, which will regulate the blanket exemption from military service given to haredi youth, and will grant yeshiva students the same benefits that soldiers and officers who are discharged from the military receive. Netanyahu was quick to disavow the law and issued a statement that it was not on the agenda. What a shame that he pledged to promote it in black and white in the coalition agreements.

Those around Netanyahu once again underestimate the value of the large protest against the government, and believe that after the approval of the reasonableness standard law, it will fade into the heat and the summer vacations within a few weeks. But the conduct of the members of his government keeps the protest alive and well.

In the meantime, the reasonableness standard law is already on its way to the High Court of Justice, and perhaps to a constitutional crisis if the judges decide to intervene and disqualify it – a scenario that is expected to further fuel the flames of protest, as are the dreams of the coalition to use the expanded reasonableness standard law to fire Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara.

On Thursday, Netanyahu issued a special notice in which it was stated that her dismissal is not on the agenda, but the real bosses, Levin and Ben-Gvir, have been building the case against her for months, and Netanyahu, as mentioned, is not necessarily in control.

Nevertheless, even if Levin and Ben-Gvir are the de facto prime ministers, the overwhelming responsibility for the deep abyss into which Israeli society is plunging rests with Netanyahu alone. The prime minister avoided meeting the chief of staff before the decisive vote, and agreed to meet him only after the political drama was over, but the map of threats and the expected damage to the IDF’s competence as a result of the pilots’ and service members’ protest was made clear to him.

All the senior officials of the defense system, the heads of hi-tech, the market, and the economy, and the senior officials of the healthcare system warned him of the enormous damage that the legal coup is causing, the governor of the Bank of Israel warned of damage to credit ratings, the rating companies issued more warning lights, and US President Joe Biden called on him repeatedly to stop – without success.

Netanyahu assured all of them in March that he “took over” and was leading a measured and responsible process with broad consensus. In the end, he succumbed to the pressures from Levin and Ben-Gvir at every decisive point and approved an extreme and corrupt law without any broad consensus.

He is also the main generator of the event, as a defendant who authorized and established and appointed the most extreme coalition the country has ever known, and gave Levin the green light to fight the justice system, despite, and probably also because of, the clear conflict of interest he is in.

In 2012, Netanyahu was proud of the strength and independence of the Supreme Court, and said that he would not lend a hand to an initiative that would harm its position. 10 years later, he appointed Levin as justice minister, making him the de facto prime minister. He can’t claim that he didn’t know.

(5) US Jewish Federations oppose Netanyahu & Reasonableness Standard Law

Holding up democracy

The first piece of Israel’s governing coalition’s controversial judicial overhaul package passed into law on Monday night, amid the throes of protest.


July 27, 2023, 7:26 am

(With Times of Israel) – Tens of thousands of protesters marching from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem were not enough to convince Israel’s governing coalition to suspend voting the first piece of its controversial judicial overhaul package into law on Monday night.

The bill barring the judiciary from using the “reasonableness” yardstick to invalidate government decisions passed in a 64-0 vote after the opposition boycotted the vote.

Activists poured into the streets to protest the vote, blocking freeways and facing off against police, and promised to ratchet up their demonstrations as lawmakers vowed to push ahead with the rest of the contentious program.

At least 33 people were arrested throughout the day and night in demonstrations in the two cities, police said.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid promised to petition the High Court as the coalition celebrated its win, which came over a month after the collapse of talks aimed at finding a compromise on the overhaul.

“It’s a sad day,” Lapid said. “This is not a victory for the coalition. This is the destruction of Israeli democracy.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu countered, “Today we did a necessary democratic act, an act that is intended to return a measure of balance between the branches of government,” and vowed to seek renewed dialogue with the opposition while calling for national unity.

Supreme Court president Esther Hayut and other senior justices cut short an overseas trip in order to return home and hold a hearing on petitions against the legislation.

The White House joined major Jewish organisations and community leaders around the world in expressing dismay at the passing of the legislation.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, World Zionist Organisation, Keren Hayesod and Jewish Federations of North America signed a joint letter addressed to both Netanyahu and Lapid noting their “concern” about the “great polarisation and discord in Israeli society”.

“We must place the wellbeing of the entire Jewish people before us, moderating the discourse and the verbal radicalisation and striving to reach agreements,” they said.

On Tuesday, Credit agency Moody’s warned about “negative consequences” and “significant risk” for Israel’s economy and security situation following the bill’s passage, while Israeli shares continued to take a dive and the shekel weakened for a second day amid market concerns.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah gloated that Israel was on the “path to disappearance” amid the crisis.

In Australia, Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Jillian Segal said the manner in which the legislation had been “steamrolled into law is shredding Israel’s social consensus and adversely impacting on Israel’s international reputation”.

“It is a supreme irony that as we approach Tisha b’Av, the hard lessons of Jewish history about the dangers of internal disunity seem to have been forgotten,” she said.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said it was disappointing the bill was passed “in such a partisan, hasty and divisive manner”.

“We urge both the Israeli government and the opposition to modify their stances and come together in a spirit of civility, mutual respect, goodwill and patriotism, and genuinely try to reach a consensus position,” he said.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said while there was a legitimate case for judicial reform, “Alterations to the fundamental structures at the heart of Israel’s system of government should be embraced based on the widest conceivable agreement.”

Friends of Likud Australia president Alex Goodman said Israel’s government “hasn’t done a good job of selling its reform” but noted that it flagged its intentions on judicial reform prior to last year’s election.

“We hope and pray for unity above all else,” he said.

Calling on Jewish leadership in Australia to do more, UnXeptable Global Movement local representative Tal Silverstein said that if the judicial push is not thwarted, a year from now “Israel will become a poor, religious, messianic, and extremist state, and the Supreme Court will have no power and no authority to stop that madness.”

(6) Zionist Federation of Australia opposes the Reasonableness Standard Law

ZFA statement on passing of reasonableness standard law in Israel

ZFA statement on passing of reasonableness standard law in Israel


Posted by: Bren Carlill

Official Statements

The Zionist Federation of Australia today expressed deep regret over the approval of the Reasonableness Standard Law in Israel in the absence of broad societal consensus.

The legislation was passed by the government amidst escalating social schisms within Israel, apparent from the countless Israelis on both sides of the debate who have demonstrated in public spaces. The overwhelming majority of Diaspora Jews hold reservations regarding the ongoing push for judicial transformation without a middle ground, which has fuelled conflict within the IDF during a period of heightened danger to the Jewish nation, and has caused tension in the crucial bond between Israel and global Jewry.

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “While there is clearly a legitimate case for judicial reform and a substantial number of Israelis believe in the need for certain modifications in Israel’s judiciary, alterations to the fundamental structures at the heart of Israel’s system of government should be embraced based on the widest conceivable agreement. Any proposed reforms should reflect a consensus position on Israel’s democratic principles of upholding checks and balances, safeguarding minority rights and conserving judicial autonomy. This is why we have consistently supported President Herzog’s initiatives aimed at consensus-building”.

Mr Leibler continued, “As we approach Tisha Be’av, a day on which we recall the destruction of the temples due to internal conflict and hatred, we continue to endorse President Herzog’s attempts to foster national conversation and urge the government and opposition to recommence negotiations under his leadership. We are deeply concerned about the long-term consequences of the divisions within Israeli society”.