Sunday, November 27, 2022

Israel - a post-democratic state?

How should Diaspora Jews react to the new Israeli government? Some of the most important figures in the incoming government are indicted (Netanyahu) or convicted criminals (Deri, Ben Gvir). This coalition is the most right-wing in Israel's history, and there are still more hateful characters who will be in important ministries. 

Benjamin Netanyahu, who will be prime minister, is on trial on a series of corruption charges. His wife, Sara Netanyahu, was "convicted in 2019 of misusing public funds and in 2016 for abusing public servants." Aryeh Deri, the head of the Sephardi Haredi party, Shas, was in prison for two years on bribery charges. Recently, "In a plea deal signed in January, 2022, he admitted to defrauding the state by reporting to tax authorities a falsely undervalued estimation of a Jerusalem property he sold to his brother." This makes him ineligible to be a minister in the government. Itamar Ben-Gvir, a convicted felon and Kahanist, leader of the Jewish Power party, will be the national security minister, in charge of the police, the fire service, and the Border Police.

From Noga Tarnopolsky in the Daily Beast, on the incoming Israeli government:
Netanyahu’s legal troubles have manacled him. Most leaders of Israeli political parties refuse to sit in government with an indicted criminal. The parties willing to help him form a majority coalition out of the Knesset’s 120 seats are those who believe they have no other avenue to power: the ultra-orthodox Jewish religious parties and an agglomeration of previously marginal extremist groups who have until now been rebuffed by Israel’s mainstream.
The deal offered by Netanyahu goes something like this: his partners will back a slate of “judicial reforms” that will effectively dismantle Israel’s judiciary, and Netanyahu, in turn, will reward them with real power.
This is the political jam which has brought Israel to the cusp of saluting Defense Minister Bezalel Smotrich, 42, a self-described “proud homophobe” and a segregationist who believes Jews and Arabs should not have to mingle, who aspires to impose the “the law of the Bible,” and who evaded his own military service.
Israel’s incoming justice minister has not yet been named, but neither Smotrich nor Ben Gvir are expected to be warmly received—or welcomed at all—by their cohorts among Israel’s closest allies.
Deri is rumored to covet the finance ministry, in which he'd impose upon fellow citizens the same taxes he was recently convicted of evading.
As things stand, he cannot legally be made any sort of minister. In a plea deal signed in January, 2022, he admitted to defrauding the state by reporting to tax authorities a falsely undervalued estimation of a Jerusalem property he sold to his brother. 
His appointment is certain to be challenged in court, where he is expected to lose. He has a simple answer: “The public knew everything there was to know about Netanyahu, me and the entire bloc, yet we received a large majority and the public expects us to govern,” he said on Israeli radio. So I hope they [the Supreme Court] will not interfere with this matter.”
But if it does, he warned, “it will be the government's first test of governance.”
Netanyahu, in fact, cannot form the barebones skeleton of his new government without overriding the supreme court. Without Deri or the extremists, he has no majority. With no majority, his trial proceeds ahead. The plan, according to numerous Israeli media outlets, is for the Likud, Netanyahu’s party, to install a new Knesset speaker by next week. Then they would rush legislation imposing an override act, followed by a new law permitting a minister to serve even if he is on probation from jail, as Deri is. Thanks to the override act, the supreme court would not be able to declare the new law illegal.
Israel could cease to have an independent judiciary in a matter of days– a transformation driven by indicted and convicted political criminals.

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