Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A Little Hopy-Changier

Palestinian farmer in Tubas, West Bank, after planting an olive tree, 2014. And in 2023...

BBC yesterday morning ran an interview on the Israel situation with retired general Dan Halutz, who was chief of staff of the IDF in 2005-07, and who said something that surprised me: that the reason Prime Minister Netanyahu is pushing so hard on these constitutional changes (they're kind of a national version of the Independent Legislature theory, taking away the Supreme Court's ability to practice judicial review and giving the Knesset power to override Supreme Court rulings, and also to put the nomination of judges wholly in the power of the government, i.e. of the prime minister and cabinet) is to increase his chances of staying out of prison. Period.

The interviewer (the great Rasia Iqbal) was surprised too, and made him repeat it—to the effect of (as I remember it, I don't have a transcript): "You're really saying that the prime minister wants to change the Basic Law to keep himself out of prison?" "Of course!" Halutz said. "Well, for one thing."

I doubt she was any more surprised by the thought than I am, of course. It's pretty obvious; what surprised her, and me, was the frankness of it, being something that respectable people who aren't Israelis, in UK and US, won't dream of saying; like Iqbal herself on the air, though she can hint at it pretty strongly.

To be fair, Israeli politics at its best does tend to go places where the BBC wouldn't, as over the weekend:

During an interview at a live event in Rishon Lezion, Halutz noted a recording of Sara Netanyahu from some two decades ago in which she said “the country can burn” if it doesn’t respect her husband.
“His wife said that in 1999 and since then [the sentiment] has only gotten stronger,” Halutz claimed. When asked how a recording from over 20 years ago was relevant, Halutz answered: “Hitler also said things in 1920 but became leader only in 1933… I’m not comparing them but saying something said in 1999 is no longer relevant? It’s very relevant.”

Anyhow, the questions I want to ask are:

  1. With the enormous public reaction against Netanyahu's plan, are we finally seeing the watershed moment when people start to see the crime that Netanyahu has been perpetrating against democracy over all these years? and
  2. Will they be able to grasp the connection between Israeli democracy, such as it is, and the fate of the Arab citizens of Israel and the basically stateless residents of the occupied West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip?

I always want to think these things are about to happen, and of course they haven't, up to now. But one of the things I've wanted to say about the current government, which is always referred to in the journalistic boilerplate as the farthest-right government in Israel's history, is also that it's by far the most cynical, in spite of the loud religiosity of most of the coalition partners. Netanyahu himself is. of course, like most of the political establishment left and right over the country's 75-year history, an atheist ("secular" is the preferred euphemism), so that his alliance with the hyper-observant is like the alliance between Donald Trump and the Bible-bangers of the American South, and he's also blatantly in office with the primary purpose of evading the corruption charges. But there's no pretense that anybody is in this government for any purpose other than to extort what they can out of it (including, for the ultra-Orthodox, plans to codify their de facto exemption from military service into law, which is causing huge resentment).

In that sense it's heartening to see the military emerging to assert itself as a force for democracy in response to the constitutional revisions and also calling out the terrorism (they used the word) of the West Bank settlers in the ongoing crisis there:

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sees the previous day’s attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank as “actions of terror,” an IDF official said Monday, as tensions in the region simmered after a weekend of violence.

At least one Palestinian man was killed, a Palestinian fire engine was stoned by a crowd of about 50 settlers, and other Palestinians were injured with stones or metal bars, Palestinian medical officials said Sunday, blaming Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Including police (on behalf of Palestinians) and intelligence officers (on the judicial coup) and extending to real civil disobedience, with the elite air force reserve pilots skipping training this week and cyber specialists more or less going on strike

Maybe it really is different this time.

No comments:

Post a Comment