December 23, 2022 09:56
From what moment does a democracy become “illiberal”, or cease to be a true state of law? The term “illiberal democracy” has so far been reserved only for countries like Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, but it is soon likely to apply to Israel and the coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu as well.
The winner of the November 1 election took his time, but in the end he presented a coalition already considered to be the most skewed to the right in the country’s history. This definition, however, does not really measure the political earthquake that has hit Israel.
In the past, the parties that Netanyahu relies on to return to power were marginalized and discredited for their racist, homophobic or violent positions. Now, however, they have made an electoral leap in a climate of political impasse. Having become indispensable, they obtained unexpected tasks: security, finances, control of the Palestinian question.
Above all, these parties have extracted from Netanyahu the promise to introduce laws that will partially undermine Israeli democracy.
Israel has no constitution. It is the supreme court that guarantees the democratic functioning of the country. However, the coalition would like it to be possible to reverse a decision of the high court with a two-thirds majority in parliament, calling into question one of the elements that in 1948 had been at the basis of the creation of the Jewish state.
Itamar Ben-Gvir is a Jewish supremacist and will have the ministry of security. The settlers’ supporter, Bezalel Smotrich, will check the treasury
Furthermore, the coalition would like to repeal laws that exclude people convicted of racism from political life and those that prohibit the separation of women from men in public spaces.
Each of these proposals bears the mark of the two extremist formations that have been decisive for Netanyahu’s return to government. Until a few years ago the leaders of these two parties were very far from the corridors of power.
The first, Itamar Ben Gvir, is a Jewish supremacist loyal to the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, assassinated in 1990. Ben Gvir will manage the ministry of public security, with extended responsibilities. The second, Bezalel Smotrich, is the leader of a far-right religious party linked to the West Bank settlements. He will be responsible for the finance ministry, also in this case with responsibility for the Palestinians.
The consequences of this change could be felt in three areas. The first is that of Israeli society, which will be subjected to an unprecedented political test. Civil society fears a democratic regression.
The second is that of relations with the Palestinians, with the strengthening of men who in the past have supported the idea of expelling them, annexing their territories and even depriving Israeli Arabs of citizenship. 2022 was marked by an increase in violence. 2023 will begin under the sign of tension.
The third area is that of international relations, for a country that has long been trying to sell itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East” and has also established strategic relationships with some Arab countries. Sign of changing times: who is the first head of state to call Netanyahu to congratulate him on December 22? Vladimir Putin.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)