by Jonathan Tobin at legalinsurrection.com
A false narrative about Netanyahu’s “judicial coup” may achieve its goal of toppling him. But more than that, the consequences for future governments and U.S.-Israel relations are ominous.
After months of increasingly strident mass protests against his government’s plans to reform Israel’s out-of-control and highly partisan judicial system, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have given in to the pressure. He said he was going to be “delaying judicial reform to give real dialogue a chance.” But it’s highly doubtful that this will merely be a timeout that will help his supporters regroup and enable opponents to calm down and accept a compromise on the issue.
On the contrary, Netanyahu is waving the white flag on judicial reform—and everyone knows it. And since the ultimate goal of the protests was not just preventing legislation from being passed but to topple the government, it’s far from clear whether the prime minister can long stay in power after this humiliation since his allies are shaken and his opponents won’t be satisfied until he’s ejected from office.
Whether that will happen remains to be seen. But the one thing that is clear is that the consequences of the events of the last months go far beyond the future of the Israeli legal system.
Netanyahu’s announcement is leading to celebrations on the Israeli left as well as among their foreign supporters, especially in the Biden administration and liberal Jewish groups. And they have good reason to celebrate. The anti-Bibi resistance was able to sell the world a false narrative about their efforts being nothing more than a successful effort to defend democracy against the efforts of would-be authoritarians who wanted to create a fascist theocratic state.
But the notion that an uprising of the “people” has stopped a “coup” by Netanyahu and his allies is pure projection. What the world has just witnessed was itself a soft coup. Fueled by contempt for the nationalist and religious voters whose ballots gave Netanyahu’s coalition a clear Knesset majority in November and imputing to them their own desire for crushing political opponents, the cultural left has shown that it has an effective veto over the results of a democratic election.