Netanyahu’s ultranationalist, totalitarian legacy | By Syed Qamar Rizvi


Netanyahu’s ultranationalist, totalitarian legacy

ISRAEL is currently going through its most serious constitutional and political crises since its establishment 75 years ago. In recent weeks, the country faces two new interwoven dangers:  first, internationally a brewing challenge to its growing incompatibility with the norms of international law and second, domestically, Netanyahu’s ultranationalist policies that challenge the norms of democracy. Currently, under Netanyahu’s unpopular regime, the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) has passed a bill of judicial reforms which is ominously reflective of Netanyahu’s agenda of transforming Israel into totalitarian-cum-autocratic state.

Earlier, the Israeli opposition politicians denounced the new law– limiting the ways a sitting prime minister could be declared unfit for office–describing it as a safety cover to protect the premier, facing an ongoing corruption trial. By a 61-to-47 final vote, the Knesset approved the bill that states that only the prime minister himself or the cabinet, with a two-thirds majority, can declare the leader unfit. The cabinet vote would then need to be ratified by a super majority in Parliament.

In the words of the Haaretz editorial, “Netanyahu has simply arranged for himself a more friendly climate for his criminality, as is common in dictatorships…..Indeed, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara told the prime minister that the declaration he made regarding his intention to deal with the judicial upheaval was a violation of the High Court of Justice ruling that ratified the conflict-of-interest agreement he had signed, thus rendering his declaration illegal’’. Israel’s opposition party chairperson Yair Lapid stated, “Like thieves in the night, the coalition just passed a disgraceful and corrupt personalized law in response to a baseless rumour about recusal. Every citizen of Israel should know – days before Passover, while the cost of living is soaring, Netanyahu is once more looking out only for himself’’.

The critics of these callous, undemocratic and ultranationalist reforms fear that the legal reforms could diminish the checks and balances within the Israeli state, particularly the way Supreme Court justices are selected, giving politicians decisive powers in appointing judges. Traditionally, the top court’s judges ‘selection would have had to be approved by a majority vote, including an independent panel for selecting judges that currently requires politicians and judges who sit on it to agree on appointments. Conversely to the past criteria, the present legal bill would provide an overriding power to the government far more sway. Additionally, as per the amended bill, no more than two Supreme Court justices can be appointed by regular panel voting in a given Knesset session.

The world is watching the Israeli moves: Over the past few weeks, thousands and thousands of Israelis have gathered in the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities in order to register their fervent public remonstrance accompanied by the gatherings of lawyers, academics, health professionals, business people and artistes. Awfully, after a few intermittent five elections– in three years– four of which ended in political stalemate, Premier Netanyahu managed to form a coalition of right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties late last year. By now, Netanyahu is using his sixth term, albeit a fatal term in office, to promote a blitz of constitutional reforms that, if enacted, would turn Israel into an autocracy.

Netanyahu’s attempt to degrade the Supreme Court: The current bill of judicial reforms is richly reflective of the fact that to gain his self-aggrandizement, Netanyahu has demoralized the supremacy of the Israeli Chief Court as he has had the fear that the Court may come in the way of his agenda of annexing the West Bank as an integral part of the Israeli territory.

Netanyahu’s Ultranationalist and fundamentalist tactics: While the ultranationalist leaders possess a sophisticated understanding of the importance of appealing to the emotions, the political leaders often employ xenophobic language intended to inspire fear and justify a defensive reaction. These negative trajectories also rely heavily upon symbols, myths and public events to simplify and communicate the pivots of their so- called nationalist approach. In order to use hate to mobilize people of the Jewish community, like the Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi, Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has been using religion as an instrument of his political trajectory. After Ariel Sharon’s toxic legacy, Netanyahu has ungrudgingly used the instrument of ultra-nationalism to promote his agenda of greater Israel.

Netanyahu’s disdain for international law: Most arguably, Israel’s Knesset’s decision– to repeal parts of the secession law—endorses the very truth that Israel is an apartheid state sponsoring those state policies which foster racial and cultural segregation of the Palestinians. Moreover, allowing Jews to settle in the Palestinians’ land is an attack on the dignity and sublimity of international law which clearly says that the West Bank is an occupied territory and Jewish settlements on this land are illegal.

The Israeli settlements issue:  The Netanyahu Government reportedly promotes bids regarding 1000 illegal Israeli homes in the West Bank.  Palestinian Authority (PA) vociferously slams Israeli move as mala fide since it seems to be a clear betrayal of Premier Netanyahu’s recent pledges to halt all illegal settlement activities during recent meetings in Jordan and Egypt. Reportedly, the Israel Land Authority published the tenders earlier this week for the illegal construction of 940 homes in the occupied West Bank settlements of Efrat and BeitarIlit, as well as 89 homes in the Gilo illegal settlement which lies over the 1967 line on the southern edge of the contested capital of Jerusalem.

Netanyahu’s government policies remained prone to occupying and annexing the Palestinian lands in Gaza and the West Bank into Israeli territory. Last month, the Israeli government granted approval for over 7,000 new homes in illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including in four unauthorised outposts — despite a UN Security Council statement sharply criticising Israeli settlement expansion and rising opposition from Israel’s western allies, including the United States.

The beholden truth: The truth is that a Jewish supremacist Israeli state has been trampling on human rights since its inception in 1948 on the pretext of the so-called security rationalizations.  With all the successive Israeli Governments, Jews have intrinsically felt self- empowered to promote their status at the expense of the Palestinians’ rights. And yet foreseeably, under Netanyahu’s Nazi-like regime, the Palestinian community sees no viable peace in future, given the growing hawkish policy of the Jewish Government to annex the Palestinian lands, thereby to retrograde the status of a common Palestinian as the Israeli protégé.

-The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Studies, also a member of Washington Foreigen Law Society and European Society of International Law. He deals with the stratigic and nuclear issues.
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