From Israel: “Politicized and Calculated Hysteria!!”

How frustrating for me this past week to be in the midst of a new computer setup, and thus unable to post.  So much going on!  I am back online now (although there will be a period of time tomorrow when I will again not have access to my computer).  

There is a sense of urgency as I write because from certain quarters the response to Israel’s new government has been irrational and over-the-top.  That response is coming from the left-wing, both in the US and in Israel. 

Please, my friends, share this broadly.  If ever the facts needed to be understood, it is now.


My title describes the situation with considerable accuracy.  The hysteria has been promoted by left-wing elements with the calculation – a mistaken calculation, I daresay – that it will weaken our new government or even bring it down. There are cries that democracy in Israel is ending, but what this means is that the left-wing is not in charge and advancing their agenda: for them, this is intolerable.  MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionists) hit the mark exactly when he said that the protests are political and not legal in nature.


There are other issues, but here I will deal primarily with the judicial reform being proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, as this seems to be the issue that is most volatile.  Note, please, that it is a member of Likud who is advancing this, not Smotrich or Ben Gvir – although they are of course on board and sought this in their coalition agreements.   

Credit: Avi Moalem


In the US, we are seeing responses that are vastly inappropriate.  I have mentioned him before but do so briefly again here by way of example: Attorney Alan Dershowitz declared – most improperly – that were he in Israel at this time, he would join demonstrations against what is being proposed by the new government.  I would suggest to Dershowitz that unless he is an Israeli citizen (he is not!) it is not his place to participate in a protest against the government.

Most infuriating and vile, there is a rabbi — Jeremy Kalmanofsky by name, of Ansche Chesed, a Conservative synagogue in the Upper West Side of NYC– who has declared that in good conscience he can no longer say the prayer for Israel at services.  


The killer is that he thinks this is an elevated moral position, while in fact, he should be hanging his head in shame.  Kalmanofsky, along with many other American Jews, fails to perceive that without a strong Israel they are all finished.  It is his place to support Israel in prayer.  

It is also his place to confirm first impressions, impressions colored by a particular left-wing perspective. The shocker is that the rabbi believes the “new government includes right-wing extremists…akin to the Ku Klux Klan.”  Dear Heaven!  A libel.  A severely twisted perception.  Minister of Public Security Itamar Ben Gvir – without a doubt the primary focus of this charge – is opposed to terrorists and violence; he is not racist, not anti-Arab.  Read more here on how he is conducting himself.




But let us turn our attention to the heart of the action here in Israel.

What we are seeing is a sort of behavior by various officials that is irresponsible, ugly and often inciteful.  Primary culprits are Yair Lapid (chair, Yesh Atid) and Benny Gantz (chair, National Unity Party), both now in the opposition.

Less than a week ago, Lapid vowed to continue fighting in streets across the country in “a war over our home…”

While Gantz declared, “If you [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] continue the way you are going, the responsibility for the civil war that is brewing in Israeli society will be on you.  This is the time to go out en masse to demonstrate, the time to make the country tremble.” 

Netanyahu’s response (emphases added) was that they were “planting the seeds of disaster” by encouraging a public rebellion against a democratically-elected government.

What we are trying to do is return Israel to the correct balance…. We got a clear mandate from the public to execute the [judicial reform] plans… [This] is not the destruction of democracy, but the strengthening of democracy.” 



Credit: CNN

There were calls for Lapid and Gantz to be charged with treason, which were totally inappropriate.  There was no treason, no collaboration with an enemy.  There were others who spoke of insurrection, which is closer to the mark, when we consider Gantz’s reference to a brewing civil war.  But there will be no charges, if for no other reason than that they would be severely counterproductive to efforts to calm matters.  


Last Thursday, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut went public on the issue of proposed reforms of the court.

“This is an unbridled attack on the judicial system, as if it were an enemy that must be attacked and subdued. This is a plan to crush the judicial system. It is designed to deal a fatal blow to the independence…of the judiciary and turn it into a silent authority…” 


Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

Minister Levin’s retort was quick in coming (emphasis added):

“This evening something happened – it turns out that there is another party in Israel, a party that did not run in the elections that took place, a party that placed itself above the Knesset – above the decision of the people.

“Tonight we heard rhetoric which is familiar from the…protests. It’s the same political agenda, it’s the same call to set the streets on fire. We didn’t hear statesmanship, we didn’t hear neutrality. We did not hear a balanced legal position. We heard statements by politicians inciting protesters…

The automatic opt-in of the honorable Honorable President of the Supreme Court, in the exact same words of Yair – Yair Lapid and Yair Golan is the best proof of how the judicial system has lost its way and the need to return it to the place it was in the days of the legal giants Landau and Agranat.”

There is no functional Western democracy in which the judges choose themselves and interfere with Basic Laws on their own accord. In no other democratic country are there legal advisers who are above the government and decide for it

“The rule of the judge is the opposite of a functional democracy. The reform I presented will return Israel to being a functional Western democracy like all other countries. It will ensure a diverse judicial system that reflects the entire nation. A judicial system that enjoys public trust that does not descend into the political field.”



At the same time, The Movement for Governability and Democracy, founded by MK Simcha Rothman (RZ), filed a complaint with the Commission for Complaints against Judges and the Civil Service Commissioner against Supreme Court President Hayut:

“In her speech this evening, President Hayut blatantly violated the rules of ethics for judges and the civil service regulations, which prohibit public servants from being involved in the political field and criticizing the work of the Knesset and the government…

“…in her blunt criticism of bills that have been submitted to the Knesset, and against the policies of the minister who is in charge of her, the subject of this complaint brutally violated the civil service regulations regarding state employees’ discipline.”

See details of the rules of ethics for judges here:



On Saturday night, there was a major demonstration against the government in Tel Aviv.  

Credit: Amir Goldstein

It is estimated that 80,000 were in attendance.  I share here comments by David Israel of The Jewish Press regarding this demonstration:

“It’s not clear what the demonstration was about: its stated goal was to protest Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s justice system reform, which an abundance of left-wing politicians, media folks, and active and retired members of the justice system had been presenting as the impending death of Israel’s democracy.

“Here’s the thing, though: the Lapid government was planning to institute several changes in the justice system that were very similar to the Levin proposed reform. Lapid’s Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar issued his plan for reforming the judicial system…

“It’s probably why Sa’ar and Lapid did not show their faces at the demonstration Saturday night…Those politicians who did show up were not what you call winners. There was Moshe Yaalon who organized the affair and hasn’t seen the inside of the Knesset for years. There was Yair Golan whose Meretz party was thrown into the trash heap of history last November. And there was Merav Michaeli, who barely made it past the threshold vote with 4 mandates – she was heckled angrily by left-wingers who will never forgive her betrayal of Meretz [as she refused to merge with Meretz for the election]. Ehud Barak was there, having himself been thrashing about the same trash heaps of history – he hasn’t been in an elected office in 10 years.

“In short, it was a collection of entitled Tel Avivians led by a slew of political has-beens who were angry that their country is being taken away from them – by the majority, which for the most part does not reside in Tel Aviv.”



It is important to mention here another sort of meddling from the left in the US, with regard to this demonstration (emphasis added):

The New Israel Fund, a U.S.-based NGO that provides financial support to progressive and anti-Israel groups, sent an email to supporters on Tuesday taking credit for recent protests against the government.”

According to the email: “The New Israel Fund assisted with a special grant to the many civil society organizations that took part in the production of the huge demonstration on Saturday night in Tel Aviv.

“Shatil from the New Israel Fund [the operating arm of the New Israel Fund in Israel] took part in coordinating and synchronizing the various parties that participated in the show of force.”


On its website NIF says that it “provided a special grant for the numerous civil society organizations which arranged the rally.”

What we can see, then, is that those who turned out are of a particular leftist bent.  Nor did they come spontaneously.  The rally was orchestrated.  


Netanyahu, at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, commented that (emphasis added): “Two months ago there was a huge demonstration in Israel, the mother of all demonstrations. Millions of people took to the streets to vote in the elections. One of the main issues they voted for is the reform in the judicial system.”

And you know what?  He is correct.  The need for judicial reform was out there during the campaign.  See more here:


A survey taken by Direct Polls for Channel 14 and released on Thursday, shows overwhelming public support for most of the judicial reforms proposed by Justice Minister Levin.  See details:



I provided a good deal of context here, much of it complex.  

And I have begun to touch upon the issues within Justice Levin’s proposal.  I will most certainly come back to consider more.  Here, I will end with an analysis – with emphasis added – by the eminent Washington attorney Nat Lewin, who has taught at Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown and University of Chicago Law Schools.  It touches cogently on many of the major issues.

“…The time has come for the Knesset—the only institution that can legitimately enact into law the policies that Israel’s citizens democratically prefer—to define the role that the judiciary (and particularly the Supreme Court) should play

Critics say [former Supreme Court President Aharon] Barak is responsible for the excesses now attributed to Israel’s Supreme Court because his court unilaterally seized exclusive authority while Barak was president of the Supreme Court between 1995 and 2006

By contrasting the history of their Supreme Courts, Israeli and American lawyers should realize that the Israeli Supreme Court, and primarily Barak personally, is primarily responsible for the criticism that now calls for a legislative remedy…the U.S. Supreme Court has long prescribed limitations on its own power. The court may sustain a party’s constitutional challenge to a law only if that party has “standing”—can demonstrate that the challenged law infringes that party’s personal liberty

Under Barak’s leadership, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected all self-imposed ‘shackles’…respected American federal appellate judge Richard Posner said in a 2007 review of a volume in which Barak laid out his judicial philosophy that Barak had ‘created out of whole cloth a degree of judicial power undreamed of even by our most aggressive Supreme Court justices.’ Israel’s justices—once appointed by a self-perpetuating body controlled totally by sitting Supreme Court members…have perpetuated Barak’s extraordinary authority…

Contrary to the opinions expressed by Levin’s critics, democracy is not threatened if a democratically elected legislature sets the rules under which a law passed by a majority of the legislature is voided whenever a majority of judges believe that it offends a Basic Law.”


Credit: Rikki Lewin

What must be understood here, at bottom, is that in a democracy there is supposed to be a balance of power between the different branches of government, but in Israel that balance was upset in favor of the Supreme Court by Barak.  It falls to the Knesset to repair that balance, which strengthens democracy rather than weaken it.  Key issues to be addressed include the right of persons without standing to petition the Court, the authority of the Court to void legislation passed by the Knesset, which was elected by the people, and the method of selecting justices.

The Court has tilted significantly left, and we see now those on the left fighting like crazy to see the power of the Court retained for that very reason.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.