The first votes on the judicial reform will take place in the Knesset tonight. I was going to wait until tomorrow to post, after the vote, but have decided to divide my posting.
I hope and trust that the two bills being brought before the plenum tonight will pass their first reading. And I will discuss the issues in a subsequent posting. Probably several subsequent postings.
Here, I raise my voice on two different matters of considerable concern. Matters that are at some level connected.
The first has to do with international interference in internal Israeli affairs. This is an ongoing problem – one I have addressed several times. Official of various nations seem to have the notion that they can criticize our policies and tell us what to do. And that has certainly been the case with regard to our judicial reform.
What has taken place in the last couple of days, however, exceeds the outrage of other similar situations. It concerns the current US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides.
I have responded to several of his statements with unease since he arrived in the country: he let it be known very quickly that he was here to do what he could to mold our attitudes towards that “two-state-solution.”
But at the end of last week, he outdid himself. On a CNN podcast, The Axe Files with David Axelrod, he said (emphasis added):
“At the end of the day, the United States is not going to be in the position to tell and dictate to Israel how they pick their Supreme Court…”
However, added Nides, “the one thing that binds our countries together is a sense of democracy and a sense of democratic institution. That’s how we defend Israel at the UN…
“When we believe that those democratic institutions are under stress and strain, we articulate it. That’s what we’re doing now, we’re telling the Prime Minister, as I tell my kids, pump the breaks, slow down, try to get a consensus, bring the parties together, this is very complicated, they’re trying to do things way too fast.”
Nides’ comments were off mark in several respects.
First, after demurring that he would not tell Israel how to select the members of our Supreme Court, he very quickly made a liar of himself by explicitly expressing opinions on the matter: he didn’t think we were doing it right. He meddled.
To make matters worse, he implied that the reforms were threatening democracy in Israel. This simply is not so and what he was doing was taking a page from the charges being made by the opposition. He was adopting their stance rather than remaining outside the political fray.
And carried one step further, he implied that we were going to lose our democracy – absolutely a fallacy – and that this would interfere with the readiness of the US to defend us in the international community.
Lastly, he was grossly and offensively condescending: “…we’re telling the Prime Minister, as I tell my kids…”
Ah, and there’s more that Nides said in that podcast that I will share before moving on:
“I spend 60% of my time trying to help the Palestinian people,” he declared. Strange, in light of the fact that he is the US emissary to Israel. Tells us a great deal about where his sympathies lie.
What is more, he promoted that fallacious “cycle of violence” narrative:
“Every action creates a reaction. The IDF soldiers come in [to a PA-controlled municipality] and they’re under attack, they kill an innocent Palestinian. Terrible. The Palestinians react to that, and they create another act. It’s just how these things unravel. It’s tragic.”
But what a distortion of the situation. The IDF soldiers come into a PA municipality in search of terrorists who have killed innocent Israelis or are planning to do so. If they kill an “innocent Palestinian” it is accidentally. What is more that Palestinian Arab may very well have not been so innocent, but acting violently against their operation to root out terrorists – throwing stones, etc. But if the Palestinian Arabs then “react” to that, it means they go out and deliberately attempt to kill an innocent Israeli.
This is who we are dealing with, my friends.
On Sunday, Amichai Chikli (Likud), Minister of Diaspora Affairs, responded to Nides (emphasis added):
I say to the American ambassador, slam the breaks on yourself and mind your own business. You’re not the sovereign here. We’d be happy to debate with you international or security affairs, but respect our democracy.”
To this I say, Bravo!
But let’s take a look at the role Yair Lapid, head of the opposition, is playing in this situation.
On Sunday, he warned that Israel is “losing the US” because of our government’s actions:
“The Americans talk to me all the time and they are horrified by what is happening.”
So he talks to them all the time, does he? And what does he tell them? That democracy is being destroyed in Israel. Then he turns around and tells us how upset the US is. Lapid is a key factor in this situation and, as I have pointed out before, is doing damage to our country.
He delivers this message about the destruction of democracy to the Americans, and to those, primarily on the left, here in this country, who are opposed to the current judicial reforms. He incites.
There were major demonstrations on Saturday night, but again today as the Knesset will be voting tonight. What is going on is shameful and foolish. If there is any action that undermines democracy, it is the way the crowds are behaving. And I write this with an enormous sense of distress.
A duly elected Knesset is moving forward on passing legislation to reform the judiciary. Do those who are coming out to demonstrate imagine that this is the way to change matters?
What some of the crowds did today was shocking: Blocking roads, they attempted to prevent members of the Knesset – including Simcha Rothman – from getting to the Knesset to cast their votes. Did they remotely imagine this would work, that the police would not intervene?
Even more to the point: did they not perceive that attempting to physically prevent a vote from taking place was the antithesis of democracy?? The irony of it, the foolishness.
Worst of all today was the behavior of one group – not representative of all the demonstrators! They came very early in the morning outside the apartment of MK Tali Gottlieb (Likud) with intention of blocking her way to the Knesset. They told her she couldn’t leave her apartment to take her low-functioning autistic daughter to daycare.
Eventually the child got to daycare, but her caregivers reported that she was shaken by the disruption in her routine. And MK Gottlieb got to the Knesset, absolutely livid, as she should have been.
I seriously doubt that the creeps who were outside MK Gottlieb’s apartment understand how vile their behavior was.
I hear protests from persons sympathetic to the demonstrators – protests that there are good people, smart people, out there in the crowds. That may be, but I will suggest that these good people have been incited, and manipulated, and have not thought matters through for themselves.
There would have been a democratic way to seek changes in the judicial reform plan. They did not have to follow the incitement of Lapid. Lapid said he would not negotiate until the process was halted for 60 days. This was blackmail and neither Yair Levin nor Simcha Rothman, the authors of the legislation, would agree to it. They knew that the goal was to stop all judicial reform. After the 60 days were up, Lapid would have declared that the negotiations were moving too slowly and they needed further delay.
Both Levin and Rothman said they were open to negotiations. Such talks might have begun before the vote to take place tonight. And, as has been repeatedly pointed out, negotiations could be held after the first reading in the plenum, as it will be several weeks until the third and final reading. This is how the process unfolds.
The good and smart demonstrators might have demonstrated outside of Lapid’s house, demanding that he participate in negotiations to further the democratic process.
They might have promoted public debates on the issues and otherwise moved their positions forward democratically. They might have called for lawyers who were with them to meet with coalition MKs.
More to follow…
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.