The United States has adopted many Israeli shows; perhaps it is time for Israel to pick up one of America’s. It could be part of Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order” franchise called “Law & Disorder: Israel.”
Ironically, the government is trying to ram through legislation to improve the legal system while seemingly losing control of the country, with lawlessness growing in the West Bank and tumult inside Israel. All that’s missing is Jeff Goldblum to explain chaos theory.
The government makes the case that it is acting democratically in seeking to reform the Supreme Court. On the one hand, it is indeed democratic for elected representatives to make laws as they see fit; on the other, it is not the case that their proposals have a mandate from the people. Netanyahu may claim he was elected to make these changes, but public opinion polls have shown that the people disagree with his proposed overhaul.
Furthermore, he is in power because of the support of religious parties whose constituents care more about avoiding conscription, funding for yeshivas and keeping secular studies out of the schools.
Some reform supporters refuse to acknowledge that a single Israeli, legal scholar or world leader has any valid objections to the proposed changes. Perhaps Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s greatest political success was as finance minister. Now, he oversees the shekel’s loss in value while economists inside and outside Israel, including his economy minister, warn of the potential economic damage if the judiciary loses its independence.
The demonization of critics as just a minority of leftists funded by outsiders has lost credibility now that Likud Knesset members Danny Danon, Yuli Edelstein, Nir Barkat and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, together with National Unity Party MKs Chili Tropper and former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, have expressed reservations about the reforms and called for a pause in the legislative process to engage in negotiations.
In the West Bank, the situation shows signs of spiraling out of control. The violence, despite what the media says, is not new. Not only does it predate Netanyahu; its origins also preceded the establishment of the state. Hardly a day goes by without a terrorist attack. Fortunately, most are thwarted, so they don’t make the news. Too many people use this as an excuse for the misbehavior of Jewish residents.
On occasions such as the rampage (the word “pogrom,” used by some, is inappropriate) by settlers in Huwara, however, it seems the authorities are failing in their mission. It typically takes a few hours or days for Palestinian terrorists to be caught. It should take no more to identify the Jewish lawbreakers. A marauder allegedly killed a Palestinian. If true, whoever was responsible should face charges.
Sadly, the show’s “order” part rarely applies to Jews in the West Bank. There would be no “hilltop youth,” illegal outposts or attacks on soldiers if settlers were treated with the same severity as Palestinian lawbreakers. Two men suspected of involvement in the Huwara incident were arrested, then released by court order. In a rare use of a practice regularly employed against Palestinians, Israeli Defense Minister Gallant placed them in administrative detention over the objections of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Meanwhile, excessive measures are being used against Israelis exercising their freedom of expression. Enforcing order applies to Israeli protesters who block roads or engage in illegal activities. However, some Israelis, including police officers, have questioned the use of stun grenades at demonstrations. “Stun guns are only used in extreme cases of violence on the protesters’ part against the police troops. There was no trace of this in today’s demonstration,” a senior officer told Haaretz.
One police officer is being investigated for throwing a stun grenade into a crowd of demonstrators in Tel Aviv. Ben Gvir’s response? “I give full backing to the officer who dispersed rioting anarchists with a stun grenade.”
The situation is likely to get worse and less equitable with Bezalel Smotrich and Ben-Gvir in positions of power. These two should never have been in the government in the first place, and Smotrich should have been fired after he said Huwara should be “wiped out.” Now Ben-Gvir reportedly has the genius idea of demolishing illegally built homes in eastern Jerusalem during Ramadan.
Demonstrators may seek regime change, but that is also part of democracy when pursued peacefully. Netanyahu’s labeling them “anarchists” and comparing demonstrators in Tel Aviv to the rioters in Huwara is incendiary.
Let’s be clear. The disorder in the West Bank is a result of the incitement against Jews by the Palestinian Authority — from the indoctrination of hatred in its youth to its rewards for martyrdom. Mahmoud Abbas has lost his grip as Palestinians have become contemptuous of his corrupt and autocratic regime. The fight for succession when he dies will only bring greater turmoil and violence.
If all this is not enough, consider the chaos likely to follow if Netanyahu is convicted of a crime. He refused to give up the premiership after being indicted. Will he do the same if he is convicted? His supporters hope to pass legislation to preempt such an outcome. How will this be received if adopted? A bill has already been approved in its initial reading to prevent the Supreme Court from suspending the prime minister.
Even more disturbing is the battle royale that will take place if the government passes judicial reforms that the Supreme Court invalidates. Who will be obeyed — the government or the court? What will the military do? Already, there is a movement by a still small number of reservists to refuse to report for service.
Since Goldblum isn’t available, let me suggest that Israelis of all political persuasions keep chaos theory in mind: “When you deal with very complicated situations, unexpected things are going to happen.”
Mitchell Bard is a foreign policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books.