December 19, 2018

The Last Two Liberals of the Likud

“Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Knesset member Benny Begin are both esteemed veterans of the Likud. They were both raised on the values of the old Herut party (antecedent of the Likud) and the teachings of revisionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Today, however, they are little more than a disparaged minority in the modern-day Likud, and certainly in the party as it is represented in the Knesset and the government.

On Sept. 5, the two men stood side by side to deliver a resounding critique of the Nationality Law (anchoring the Jewish nature of the State of Israel) and the incessant attacks on the Supreme Court by various members of the government, including the Likud’s own Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was only natural that they offered their stinging rebuke at the center designated to carry on the legacy of Begin’s father, former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, for whom respect for the official institutions of state ran deep.

Unlike his previous public statements, this time Begin chose sharp, aggressive language in response to remarks by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked one day earlier, on Sept. 4, attacking the Supreme Court. In a gathering of the Israeli Bar Association to mark the beginning of the legal calendar, Shaked attacked the Supreme Court’s decision that it would not immediately dismiss suits brought against the Nationality Law. As she put it, this is part of a constitutional revolution, which has caused Israel to make the transition from “government of the people to a government of legal sages.” Just one month earlier, on Aug. 5, Shaked made a statement threatening the Supreme Court, when she said that if the court overturns the Nationality Law, there would be a war between the legislative and judicial branches of government.”

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