It’s Tempting to See a Victory, but Israelis Suffered a Huge Defeat

A win for the Israeli opposition could turn out to be a Pyrrhic one

Noa Landau, HAARETZ

After months of dogged public protest, it would have been tempting to view the election of Yesh Atid Knesset member Karine Elharrar to the Judicial Appointments Committee as a victory of sorts for the opposition. But a win of that kind is still liable to end in a Pyrrhic victory: As of now, the opposition’s representative was elected to a committee that doesn’t exist.

National Unity party leader Benny Gantz and Knesset opposition leader Yair Lapid therefore did the right thing in declaring that the negotiations on judicial changes would be on hold until the Judicial Appointments Committee is actually convened.

As with any political move led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this time too some of the commentary in the course of the day’s voting was fraught with over-mystification regarding the prime minister. Some described him as cunning (saying that he had intended to throw crumbs to the two sides and to delay a decision, precisely as occurred). Others viewed him as a schlemiel (who had intended to keep his word to the opposition but couldn’t control the members of his own faction). Still others attributed malicious motives (saying that he had intended to cheat the opposition from the beginning and to delay the convening of the Judicial Appointments Committee indefinitely).

But as usual, when it comes to Netanyahu, it’s not the truth and overly-wrought analysis that are most important, but rather remembering what the reality is and that the committee that will determine the future system of government in the country is still dependent on the whims of a nightmare government and its justice minister, Yariv Levin.

Under the circumstances, Gantz and Lapid’s necessary decision to condition the talks at the President’s Residence upon the convening of the committee is the most reasonable response to what has actually happened. This is irrespective of various analyses regarding Netanyahu, whose private thoughts can’t be gauged nor his promises relied upon in any event. That provides a relatively effective balance of deterrence since Netanyahu needs the false front of the talks at the President’s Residence to repeatedly claim to his overseas audience that he is still purportedly seeking to pass judicial legislation by “broad consensus.”

And while each side is seeking to claim a tactical victory, the deferral of a decision is actually a huge strategic loss for the entire Israeli public, because for the entire time that the committee doesn’t convene, the governmental, social and economic chaos that has shaken the country in recent months continues.

But there is also good news from the Knesset vote, which was conducted by secret ballot. The fact that at least four coalition members voted for Elharrar, a member of the opposition, again shows that the government coup is also fragmenting the government from within. And finally, it’s important to remember that even though the Judicial Appointments Committee has rightly become the most important symbol of the attempted government coup, its convening wouldn’t mean the end of the battle. If it convenes, the coalition will still expect a quid pro quo in the form of a compromise by the opposition on legislation, which could present considerable dangers.

And ultimately changes to the judicial system and the system of government remain a tool and not a goal in themselves. The coalition will still seek to make Israel more Jewish than democratic and with or without Elharrar, it will find other ways to embitter the lives of liberal Israelis.

June 15, 2023 | Comments »

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