Thankfully, Israeli civil society has forced Prime Minister
to halt, for now, his attempt to assert control over Israel's independent judiciary and gain a free hand to rule as he pleases.
But this whole affair has exposed a troubling new reality for the United States:
For the first time, Israel's leader is an
, a danger not only to Israelis, but also to important American interests and values.
Mounted police disperse an anti-government protest in Tel Aviv.
(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
This calls for an
by both President
and the pro-Israel Jewish lobby in the United States.
Netanyahu essentially told everyone:
"Trust the process," "Israel is a healthy democracy," and, in a whisper, "Don't worry about the religious fanatics and Jewish supremacists I brought to power to help block my corruption trial."
I will keep Israel within its traditional foreign policy and political boundaries.
your old friend, Bibi
They wanted to trust him, and it all turned out to be
From day one, it has been obvious to many of us that this Israeli government would go to lengths that no one has ever dared before.
Without real defenses, it would lead the United States and world Jewry to cross red lines they never imagined crossing, while possibly destabilizing
, eliminating hope of a two-state solution and leading Israel, in the year of its 75th anniversary,
on the brink of civil war.
This is because the key to implementing the government's radical agenda was always to gain control of Israel's Supreme Court in the first place - the only legitimate independent check on the ambitions of Netanyahu and his extremist coalition partners - through a process disguised as
With the judiciary in check, Israel would be governed more like elected autocracies like
Hungary and Turkey
than the Israel the world has always known.
And Netanyahu and his associates have pursued that kind of political control of the courts above any other priority they ran for, bringing the country to the brink of "civil war," as Netanyahu admitted in his national address Monday night. evening.
Faced with that civil war - following an unprecedented revolt over the weekend by a broad section of Israeli society, its military and even some members of his own party - Netanyahu offered to suspend his takeover efforts and
a month to negotiate with the opposition and see if a compromise can be forged.
We'll see what happens.
But one thing is already clear:
Netanyahu has become the definition of an irrational actor in international relations - someone whose behavior we can no longer predict and whose words Biden should not be trusted.
For starters, the US needs to ensure that Netanyahu
does not use US weapons
to wage any kind of choice war with
without the full and independent backing of the Israeli military high command, which has opposed his judicial coup.
Why do I insist that Netanyahu has become an irrational actor and a danger to our interests and values?
It is a question that can be answered with a question:
How would you describe an Israeli prime minister and his son who, after 50 years in which the United States has sent Israel billions and billions of dollars in economic and military aid, have been spreading the lie that the US government was he behind the mass demonstrations against the prime minister, which could not be a genuine popular protest?
It had to be financed by the United States.
I'm not making it up.
Yair Netanyahu, his father's closest political adviser, shared conspiracy tweets with his many Israeli right-wing Twitter followers last week,
The Jerusalem Post
reported , including this one:
"The US State Department is behind the protests in Israel, with the goal of overthrowing Netanyahu, ostensibly to conclude a deal with the Iranians."
I wonder where that came from.
Well, two weeks ago,
The Times of Israel
reported that while Netanyahu the Major was on an official visit to Rome, a "senior official" from his tour group (who everyone in the Milky Way galaxy knows is the code for the prime minister himself) was quoted as saying (without a shred of evidence):
"This protest is funded and organized with millions of dollars. ... This is a very high level organization."
The story continued:
"Another member of the prime minister's entourage confirmed that the senior official was referring to the United States."
This is the same
that the Iranian leadership has been deploying to discredit the genuine democracy movement in Iran, led by Iranian women.
For Netanyahu and his son to turn on the United States with the same pathetic cynicism as Iran is shameful - and insane.
Neither of them should be allowed to enter the United States until they apologize.
This is not the only sign of what an irrational player Netanyahu has become.
What rational Israeli prime minister would risk fracturing his army - which this attempted takeover of the judiciary has been doing - at a time when Iran can already make enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in less than two weeks, and is racking up diplomatic gains with Israel's Arab allies?
A little over a week ago, Netanyahu's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a respected military leader who started out as a naval commando, gave the prime minister a choice: freeze his attempted judicial coup without a national dialogue, or go ahead with it. have his defense minister resign and large segments of the army reserves and air force refuse to report for duty.
Netanyahu then made the extraordinary decision to fire Gallant.
As Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel put it:
"It's hard to think of a senior defense official who wasn't shocked by Netanyahu's decision. ... Among senior IDF officers, both current and former, the discussion on Sunday night centered on whether it was A
of major generals and brigadier generals is needed to stop the madness".
Consider this too:
What rational Israeli prime minister would risk one of the greatest achievements of American and Israeli diplomacy in the Middle East, the Abraham Accords, to push for a judicial takeover that would give free rein to the Jewish supremacists and nationalist fanatics in his Cabinet?
I mean people like Netanyahu's finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who, as Axios described, last week "made a speech in Paris at a podium showing a map that included Jordan and the occupied West Bank as part of Israel and He said that the Palestinian people were '
This completely scared the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, not to mention Jordan, which is a fundamental pillar of the US strategy in the Middle East.
If Netanyahu and company destabilize Jordan, they will sow winds and reap storms.
And what Israeli prime minister would try to pass a law so that he could appoint a three-time convicted tax and financial swindler - Shas party leader Aryeh Deri - Minister of Health and Interior, with the promise of making him Finance Minister in the next Cabinet reshuffle?
In 1993, Deri was ordered by the Supreme Court to resign from the Cabinet on corruption charges, but he remained Shas leader until 1999, when he was sentenced to three years in prison for taking bribes.
In 2021, The Times of Israel reported, Deri accepted a deal in which he admitted to "a couple of tax offenses in exchange for resigning from the Knesset" and paying a fine.
In January, the Supreme Court ruled that Deri was unfit to serve in the government.
In case you haven't seen it, on top of everything else that's going on, Netanyahu has been trying to speed through a law to overturn the Supreme Court decision, so this friend of his who defrauded the Israeli Treasury - to which American taxpayers have donated billions in aid over the last half century - can come to be
in charge of that same Treasury.
The contempt that all of this shows for Israeli taxpayers, for the rule of law in Israel, for the Israeli Supreme Court, and for the United States is just further evidence of a leader who has completely thrown himself off any ethical moorings
The time has finally come for the US government, the US Congress and American Jewish leaders and lobbies, who have too often been Netanyahu's accomplices, to make it unequivocally clear that they are also marching with all those Israelis - in the military, the high-tech community, the universities, the traditional religious communities, the doctors, the nurses, the air force pilots, the bankers, the unions and even the settlements - who took to the streets last week to ensure that 75 anniversary of Israeli democracy will not be the last.
c.2023 The New York Times Company
c.2023 The New York Times Company
Crisis in Israel: they affirm that the government postponed the judicial reform in the midst of a massive wave of protests and a national strike
Israel seethes: Netanyahu fired a minister who opposed judicial reform