From Israel: “With a Heavy, Heavy Heart!!”

Israel truly is an anomaly in today’s world: A nation with a duly elected right-wing government in a sea of Western democracies that have all gone progressive. It is doubtful that the sympathies of many (any?) leaders in those democracies were with our elected leaders yesterday.  

But I will suggest that because of this reality, it is all the more important that we remain strong in what we are.  Caving is not an option.  We stand against a world gone mad.

I note here, as I have previously, that there has been funding from international progressive groups supporting the massive left-wing demonstrations here.  

Please see a brilliant analysis by Melanie Phillips regarding these issues:


Credit: JPost


Yesterday I truly feared for my country: It seemed we were on the edge of civil war – something I once thought impossible.  Today that fear is somewhat mitigated, but not remotely do I write with any gladness.  We have yet to see what will transpire in the coming months.

But before I write about what has taken place in recent days, I want to review some very pertinent background information.  Once again, please read through and share broadly!


When charges are made that the coalition wants to upset a judicial system that has worked for 75 years now, it is important to remember that this is not the case at all. Then president of the Court Aharon Barak, in the 90s, made shifts (unilaterally) that increased the power of the Court.  What current reforms will do is return the system to what it was prior to the Barak changes.


The left-wing demonstrations that have been going on for close to three months have ostensibly been a protest against the judicial reform legislation that is being advanced by the government; the left-wing claims it would weaken or destroy democracy in Israel.

But this charge is fallacious.  Even Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who is not right-wing and not enthusiastic about the legislation, said that it would not weaken Israel’s democracy and in fact would strengthen it in certain respects.


Unfortunately, the charge has been made so frequently by leaders on the left that a good number of Israelis, as well as many abroad, readily embrace this interpretation, expressing alarm.


In recent weeks, our government has been advancing only one piece of legislation with regard to judicial reform: This concerns the makeup of the committee that selects judges and justices.  It requires adjustment because the current process by which justices are selected is undemocratic. Supreme Court justices and members of the Bar Association (who vote with them) dominate on the committee, repeatedly bringing in new justices who have the same left-wing political orientation that they do. Justices who themselves were not selected with input from the electorate control the situation.  

In other Western democracies, the electorate has input either directly or indirectly.  In the US Supreme Court Justices must be confirmed by the Senate, which is elected by the people.

The reform legislation would actually increase democracy.  Elected officials – two ministers and three MKs, two from the coalition – would dominate the committee.  Representatives of the electorate would be empowered to make decisions on new justices. The make-up of the Court would then better reflect the political preferences of the electorate.


What then is motivating the leaders of the demonstration?  Several factors are at play:

[] It is the left that is demonstrating in the streets. And it is the left that would no longer be able to determine the make-up of the Court if the governing coalition were right-wing, as is the case now.  Court rulings might then be less favorable to a leftist position. It is not a case of seeking more democracy but securing continued control.

[] There is a very strong sentiment against Prime Minister Netanyahu in certain quarters (virulent and irrational) and against the right-wing government more broadly; the intent is to delegitimize the coalition or bring it down.  The judicial legislation is a hook upon which demonstration leaders can promote broad-based discontent.

Head of Labor Merav Michaeli was interviewed on TV news recently and was asked whether those opposed to the legislation would negotiate if the legislation was stopped.  “We don’t want negotiations,” she replied, “we want elections.”

If they had been sincere about seeking improvement in the legislation, protest leaders would have agreed to come forward for negotiations – as the coalition had invited them to do several times.

A month ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu called for serious negotiations:

“…you have to go into one room together and talk, without quibbling over etiquette and without ego – you go in together and talk. Because the country comes first. We go in together without prefaces and without preconditions.”

Replied Lapid immediately: “…you are only interested in one thing: to continue the campaign of destruction of Israeli democracy.”


Just a week ago, MK Simcha Rothman (RZ), Chair of the Constitution Committee, pictured, and Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Chair, RZ), held a joint press conference.  

Said Rothman: “I call on my friends in the opposition, the people I talked to from academia, high-tech, the economy and all parts of Israeli society, to reach back. A settlement can be reached with a broad consensus.”


Credit: Haaretz

From the opposition came only insults and refusal.  Lapid called them liars, dangerous and cowards.  Gantz said there was only hypocrisy.


It is the height of irony, that the very people screaming about democracy are prepared to undermine a government that was democratically elected utilizing very undemocratic methods.


And what of the tens of thousands who came out to the streets?

They did not come out to protest in anything remotely resembling orderly fashion. They came to disrupt the functioning of the average Israeli – saying so quite openly.  They have been raucous and have blocked streets – which they are not supposed to do.  They have even attempted to interfere with the movement of Israeli officials – blocking Simcha Rothman’s car, for example, or trying to prevent Netanyahu from getting to the airport.

I believe a certain percentage of those out on the streets are sincere in their love of Israel and are convinced that they are doing what is right for the country.

But I am equally convinced that a good part of the demonstrators are not really clear on the issues, having been lied to and incited.  Ask them what they think is undemocratic about the reform legislation and they would be hard pressed to give cogent answers.

Some come because they hate Bibi and enjoyed demonstrating against him prior to the election.  Hey, that was fun, so why not continue?  I’ve seen it in the faces of some: they are enjoying themselves.

The point has been made again and again by analysts: these demonstrators are in large part people with a secular, elitist, Tel Aviv mentality.


On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud), who had called for a halt in the legislation, and did so while Netanyahu was in London.

Credit: The Chronicle


Gallant was worried about loss of military discipline because a few hundred Air Force reservists declined to serve.  Netanyahu felt it was Gallant’s job to maintain control, not respond by caving.

See Ruthie Blum’s analysis of this situation. She says Gallant was guilty of cowardice and betrayal:



Following this, demonstrations increased in intensity.  This was in part, as well, because the legislation on the selection committee had passed its first reading in the Knesset, had been discussed and passed in the Constitution Committee, and was going to be brought before the Knesset for its second and third (final) reading later this week.

By Monday the situation was alarming. Fires were lit in some streets to stop traffic.

Credit: Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Maariv

This is Israel? Our Israel?


Histadrut, the labor union federation, called a general strike so that the country was frozen.  Banks were closed, as were some hospitals (except for emergencies), and the airport; universities cancelled classes.

There are assessments that what Histadrut did was illegal – because members of unions should not be involved in political issues without their consent.

“Over 600 doctors [called] on the Israeli Medical Association not to make the body political and not to use their names and the membership fees they pay for political purposes.”


In some instances, institutions such as hospitals that were involved receive government funds and may not act against the government.


For some hours yesterday, there was an air of political indecisiveness, if not chaos.  It was very unclear how the situation would be resolved: a painful, incredibly tense, and very sad time.

Members of the coalition – most notably Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) – opposed Netanyahu’s inclination to postpone the judicial reform legislation and call for negotiations.  This, they declared, would represent a defeat for democracy.

Smotrich and Rothman both called on the right-wing public to come out and take back the streets, demonstrating strength.  Without advance notice, without funds, without buses, they came by the tens of thousands to demonstrate in front of the Knesset.

Credit: Spokesman

After Ben Gvir met with the prime minister, he said he would not object to postponement, because Netanyahu had promised the legislation would be brought forward as is, if there were no negotiated compromise, in the summer session beginning July.  The legislation would be postponed, not cancelled.

What is more, Netanyahu agreed that Ben Gvir would be in charge of a civil national guard to increase security in our cities.



Yesterday evening, the prime minister spoke to the nation:

“There is an extreme minority that is ready to tear our country into parts. It tends towards violence. It ignites fire. It threatens to harm elected officials. It talks about civil war. And it calls for insubordination, which is a terrible crime.

“The State of Israel cannot exist without the IDF, and the IDF cannot exist with insubordination. Insubordination by one side will bring about insubordination on the other side. Insubordination is the end of our state. Therefore I demand that our security forces and the IDF’s commanders to oppose the phenomenon of insubordination. Not to contain it, not to understand it. To stop it.

“For three months, I have called for dialogue…Because I remember, we remember, that we are not facing enemies: we are facing our brothers. I say here and now: we must not have a civil war.

“We are now on a path towards a very dangerous collision in Israeli society, which jeopardizes the basic unity between us, and such a crisis obligates all of us to act responsibly.

“Out of national responsibility, out of a desire to prevent a rift in the nation, I have decided to postpone the second third reading of the law in this session of the Knesset in order to give time to try to reach a wide agreement on the legislation in the next session of the Knesset. This way, we will bring about a reform that will restore the balance which has been lost, while maintaining and even strengthening human and individual rights.”



This was a difficult moment, and many of us on the right were frustrated, distressed by an apparent caving to violence. It certainly was not a moment of pride for Israeli democracy.

But in the end, as I thought about it, I felt Netanyahu was right: he had to prevent a civil war.

Negotiations are to take place in the president’s house.  There is criticism of this that I believe is legitimate.  Yehuda Wald, director of Religious Zionists, says that Yitzhak Herzog has already proven himself to be partial to the left, and thus cannot be an objective arbiter:

“We already held discussions and drafts were already proposed to the president, but ultimately, he submitted to the pressure from the Left and also to the wave of refusals to serve in the IDF, rejected all the suggestions, and took the side of the leftists and the anarchists.

“Why should things be any different this time around? Unfortunately, the president is not objective. We do need to hold talks and arrive at a balanced outline, but without him involved. He is a part of the problem, not part of the solution.”



Note that one group has declared that it will continue to demonstrate: The protest organizers said they will not stop their activity until the judicial overhaul legislation is shelved for good.

The major demonstrations will be halted but there will be “focused” demonstrations.

The legislative pause is “just an attempt to weaken the protests in order to enact Netanyahu’s dictatorship,” said Dr. Shikma Bressler, a founder of the anti-Netanyahu Black Flags protest group. “Now is not the time to reduce the pressure, but to increase it…

“The Saturday evening anti-Netanyahu protest in Tel Aviv, which has taken place weekly since the premier’s return to power in December 2022, will continue as usual…”



Lapid has already expressed reservations about the negotiations on Twitter, saying he had doubts that Netanyahu was serious:

“First of all, we have to be sure that there are no tricks or deception here. We heard reports that Netanyahu told his associates, ‘I’m not really stopping, I’m just lowering the flames.’”

But hey, that’s no secret.  Netanyahu is not stopping, he is postponing and he made that quite clear.  His   coalition would never have accepted a complete halt, nor should he. 

“If he tries to [trick] us, he will once again find [himself facing] hundreds of thousands of Israeli patriots who are determined to fight for our democracy.”


There is no reason, then, to have expectations that anything will come of these negotiations. Even without this statement from Lapid I would not.  What I expect is that the opposition will go in with elaborate demands and then come away declaring that they tried but the coalition did not cooperate.


The coalition is not naïve about all of this.

Tuesday morning, the coalition submitted the bill dealing with the composition of the committee to elect judges, to a plenum vote. It has passed in committee on Monday.

“There was a practical, largely technical reason for this move: Knesset protocol requires that a bill be submitted at least 24 hours before the plenum can vote on it. So, now, anytime the coalition decides to submit the original bill – it can. And, naturally, there was a psychological component to the move, a message to the opposition parties, if you will, that should they pull away from the talks – the bill becomes a law in an instant.”


The first meeting has been held at the president’s house.  See details on the three negotiating teams – Likud, Lapid’s group, and Gantz’s group – below.  Teams from Labor (oy very) and Yisrael Beitenu are slated to join.



I close by indulging in a bit of wishful thinking: Maybe even if the result is not positive, the interim will quiet matters so that they do not return to their intensity of the last few days.

Coming next week is Pesach and after this Yom Ha’atzmaut, and it will, please Heaven, be a peaceful time.  

Additionally, we will be able to focus on other matters, such as security, that are of critical importance.  I think more than anything else I deplore the behavior of the protestors because it gives our enemies a picture of a weakened Israel.


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