Israel’s future dystopia: Will democracy be replaced by electocracy? – opinion

View this email in your browser

The Jerusalem Post 20.09.2023



Israel’s future dystopia: Will democracy be replaced by electocracy? – opinion


I started feeling sorry for Itamar Ben-Gvir . After winning goonatic-of-the week repeatedly, he was trumped last week – pun intended. First, many of his coalition colleagues brutishly repudiated true democracy and Israeli political norms. They’re trying to replace Israel’s fine-tuned, rights-based democracy with an untrammeled rights-trampling electocracy. These undemocratic demagogues looked reasonable, however, compared to United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler who blamed “the Zionists” for Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.


True, no side is pure – or wholly temperate. Some government critics – including retired defense officials who should know better – outrageously call Israel a “dictatorship” and an “apartheid state .” Meanwhile, as the prime minister goes off to play statesman in America, he disparages Israeli demonstrators as “joining forces with the PLO, Iran, and others.”


How can Benjamin Netanyahu chide Joe Biden’s blindness to Iranian mullahs’ evil and criticize America for stupidly pumping another $6 billion into Revolutionary Guard pockets, while equating fellow citizens protesting democratically with Iranian terrorists threatening Israel – and America?


It seems like extremists on both sides have spent months prepping for the Yom Kippur confessional, to justify pounding their chests for the sins of “hard-heartedness, impurity of speech, foolish talk, scoffing, slander, a haughty demeanor, scheming against others, running to do evil,” and “causeless hatred.” The way each side tolerates its extremists, rationalizing their own bullies, never holding their allies accountable, violates the humility Yom Kippur’s breast-beating ritual encourages.


Both extremes’ toxic fanaticism, trampling over the Silenced Majority, proves how much Israel needs a multi-dimensional democracy, checking-and-balancing. As Alexander Hamilton warned America’s Constitution-makers in 1787, democracies must fragment power: “Give all the power to the many, they will oppress the few. Give all the power to the few, they will oppress the many.”


Simcha Rothman’s dystopic vision of Israel

Simcha Rothman , chairman of the Constitution Law and Justice Committee, is an intelligent, well-trained lawyer. His boorishness, calling Supreme Court judges in court “privileged elites,” was dismaying enough. His willful distortion of democracy, claiming democracy gives the majority a free pass to do whatever it wishes from election to election, was terrifying. Justice Anat Baron correctly challenged his claim that the Knesset can govern without restraint, especially with a bare majority and a radical agenda.


Baron asked: “What if the Knesset said that elections would take place only every 10 years, or that Arabs do not have the right to vote, or that it is forbidden to travel on Shabbat – what would you say?” Rothman’s chilling response: “If we make a mistake, we can correct it when we are made aware of it, and if we don’t – we can be replaced via the ballot box.”



That’s not democracy – that’s electocracy. Translate the word into Hebrew as “becheerotiya” – enjoying the way it sounds like that hated Hebrew word for “bureaucracy” – “burokratiya.” Going beyond the tyranny of the majority, Rothman’s dystopic vision proposes total domination of the elected, from Election Day to Election Day, no matter how slim the majority, no matter how strong the “con” polls are, no matter how violent the damage to minorities, or the majority, or social stability and sanity.


Rothman and his supposedly “conservative” allies are alarmingly radical, assailing democratic norms. This is not how Israel flourished. And this is not how healthy democracies function.


ROTHMAN’S WORDS became even more unnerving following government attorney Ilan Bombach’s claim that it was “unthinkable” that Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence must “bind all future generations,” then followed by Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana’s thuggish threat to replace the Supreme Court with a kangaroo, I mean “constitutional,” court. What, I wonder, are they teaching in Israeli law schools?


Just because Israel’s Supreme Court occasionally acted unchecked and imbalanced doesn’t mean the Knesset should become unchecked and imbalanced. Sincere democrats frustrated with one branch acting too high-handedly should fine-tune the system – with delicate tuning forks, mildly adjusting our core institutions just enough to preserve their legitimacy, not with destructive, delegitimizing, sledgehammers.


And what does this government gain by defiling our nation’s liberal-democratic sacred texts, like the Declaration of Independence? Do the coalition’s leaders think their 64 geniuses could replicate that document’s historically-consecrated, consensus-building, values-rich legitimizing and stabilizing power?


Rothman and his anti-court crusaders love invoking Great Britain’s “almighty parliament,” which they claim runs a democracy with “no checks and balances.” Another lie! The “Constitution Unit” of the University College London details Great Britain’s constitutional game of rock, papers, scissors-match, even amid “parliamentary supremacy.”


Britain has an active executive balanced by a House of Lords, a House of Commons, strong courts, and “impartial officials” bolstered by an autonomous “civil service” tradition. The website doesn’t even mention independent mayors, the 33 borough councils in London alone, England’s many hallowed traditions, and Magna Carta’s ongoing lesson that no leader is above the law while all individuals enjoy fundamental rights.


“Checks and balances are the mechanisms which distribute power throughout a political system,” UCL’s experts explain, “preventing any one institution or individual from exercising total control. This principle is core to all modern democracies.”


In 1835, the bard of democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, called the American courts’ power of judicial review “one of the most powerful barriers” against the “tyranny of political assemblies.” Judges must wield the power wisely, with restraint; just as legislators must wield their power wisely – with respect for the courts, for the truth, and for true democracy.


Don’t replace the occasionally overly Supreme Court with an obnoxiously all-Supreme Knesset. Judges and coalition leaders must remember: power is like fertilizer. When spread carefully, it nurtures broadly, but when concentrated, it stinks.


A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org )  . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and  My People,  was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of  The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist. 




This email was sent to >” target=”_blank” style=”color:#404040 !important;”><>

why did I get this?     unsubscribe from this list     update subscription preferences

Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel