February 18, 2020

Don't Celebrate the Netanyahu Indictments

“Israel’s long-standing claim to be “the only democracy in the Middle East” is a controversial one. How can a country that maintains a military occupation of areas inhabited by millions of Palestinians — who have no vote or any other meaningful political rights — call itself a democracy, say Israel’s detractors. At the same time, Israel’s democracy has other very strong elements in its favor.

It has strong independent law-enforcement agencies and a judiciary, which have held the most powerful in the land to account. In the past decade, a former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has sat in prison for accepting bribes and a former president, Moshe Katsav, served time for rape. Freedom of expression is a proud tradition and the Israeli media is free, combative and irreverent. Election turnouts are high and the electoral system is robust, transparent, routinely delivers change of government, and its results are accepted as fair and are not disputed.

In recent years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political allies have tried to erode all these democratic elements. They routinely attack the legal establishment, accusing it of being a left-wing mafia. They propose legislation to limit the powers of the country’s Supreme Court and have appointed police chiefs and attorneys general in the hope they would shield politicians from investigation.”

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