Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – All of a sudden, civil war is on the minds of prominent Israeli politicians, who warn that if the current impasse between the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israeli people is not resolved, it could come to that.
Last Sunday an estimated half a million demonstrators came out into the streets, some 5 percent of the Israeli population, which does indeed suggest that a cascade of protest and dissent could sweep over the country and embroil it in street fighting. The dispute is between far right extremists in the Netanyahu government and the center-right opposition, concerning Netanyahu’s plan to introduce changes into the authority of the Supreme Court vis-a-vis parliament, and also changes in the way the justices are chosen that will give the party in power more power to shape the bench.
Israel’s ceremonial president Isaac Herzog on Wednesday unveiled some proposals for changes in how the court is appointed, but these were immediately rejected by Netanyahu and his coalition partners.
The pan-Arab daily al-`Arabi al-jadid (The New Arab) was founded by former member of the Israeli parliament Dr. Azmi Bishara, and like him it takes a secular, left-leaning line. It reports that Herzog warned that Israel had reached a tipping point. He underlined that he had talked to thousands of Israelis in recent weeks, saying,
- “I will use a phrase that I have not employed before now, and there is no Israeli who does not feel horror at it. Anyone who believes that a real civil war is a line to which we will not arrive, simply does not understand.”
He said that Israel was “in the middle of a real crisis,” which was at the same time “an enormous opportunity,” and that the country was “at a crossroads.”
Members of Netanyahu’s far right wing government carped that Herzog is just one person and not one parliamentarian in the ruling coalition agreed with his unilateral suggestions.
Netanyahu was supposed to leave at 5 pm for Germany, a trip he intends to cut short. Crowds of protesters at Ben Gurion airport appear to have delayed his departure. They shouted things at him like “Don’t come back!”
Ominously for Netanyahu, among the demonstrators, according to The Times of Israel, “were “elite Sayeret Matkal commando squad who rescued hostages in Entebbe in 1976 — the operation led by the premier’s brother Yoni Netanyahu, who was killed during the raid.”
The Israeli newspaper Arab 48 reported that opposition leader Benny Gantz called for efforts to avoid a social and economic rift.