Letters: Responding to Tobin


Israeli Situation Not That Different From One in US
Reading Jonathan Tobin’s op-ed (“A ‘Resistance’ Coup Just Defeated Israeli Democracy” March 29), I couldn’t help but think how remarkably similar Israel’s situation is to our own under Donald Trump. Tobin’s right-wing defense of Netanyahu and his strident criticism of Israel’s left sounds eerily familiar to Trump and his friends’ savaging of the American liberals.

Tobin opines that Israel is a “juristocracy,” with too much power to interpret the law. How does that differ from the American Supreme Court in which one man (Trump) can pack the court with enough conservatives to thwart the will of the people? Polls have shown that the majority of Americans supported abortion, hated Citizens’ United and want sane gun control laws, but the court ignored the “will of the people.” If that’s not a juristocracy, I don’t know what is.

I would submit that the protesters in Israel are protecting democracy against the threat of an autocracy.

They know that without a system of checks and balances, it leads down a slippery slope. If the prime minister and the Knesset can arbitrarily decide which dictates of the courts to follow, which to ignore and which to rewrite, can the loss of democracy be far behind?
The “will of the people” is not a coalition of disparate views that come together for a political purpose. It represents what the majority of the country thinks and wants. Before the Israeli government takes any action, hold a national referendum on this issue. If the majority consents to this proposed right-wing coup, then they get what they deserve and have no one to blame but themselves.

Jeff Ettinger, Huntingdon Valley

History’s Lessons
Jonathan Tobin’s perceptive and sagacious opinion piece (“A ‘Resistance’ Coup Just Defeated Israeli Democracy,” March 29) brought to mind warnings from the past outlined in Jehuda Avner’s celebrated book, “The Prime Ministers,” specifically the chapters devoted to the tenure of Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Avner recounts Begin’s description of the events surrounding the Roman attack upon Jerusalem in 70 C.E., during which Jews were fighting amongst themselves, even burning food stores, and thus weakening the overall defense of the city. Sigmund Freud once observed that “history repeats itself because man repeats the same patterns of behavior.”
Of course, currently, the enemies of Israel are not at the gates. And the country is not burning in a literal sense. But is Israel on fire in a rhetorical sense to weaken, if not destroy, the fabric of society?

Woe to those who fail to exercise judgment for the benefit of Israel, rather than seeking only personal aggrandizement!

Arthur Solomon Safir, Warwick

Consider Core Values
Jonathan Tobin’s recent op-ed (“A ‘Resistance’ Coup Just Defeated Israeli Democracy,” March 29) wrongheadedly bemoans as an anti-democratic “coup” the success of both internal and external protesters in apparently derailing (at least for the present) the Netanyahu government’s intentions of undermining the judicial branch of the Israeli government.

Tobin’s argument conveniently ignores a fundamental requirement for any healthy democracy — namely, an independent judiciary with the authority to uphold the rule of law and enforce the core values of society. In the U.S., those core values are outlined in our Constitution — which necessarily includes protections from the tyranny of the majority by providing for courts with the final say in interpreting and applying laws governing fundamental rights and institutions.

While even core values can and do evolve, and changes rightly have been made over time through amendments to our basic social contract, that process was wisely made arduous by our founders, requiring supermajorities. With a judiciary that can be overridden by a simple majority vote of the current legislature, Tobin’s desired democracy in Israel would likely devolve into autocracy or dictatorship, such as we see in pseudo-democracies like Turkey, Russia and China. Surely, that is not what he wishes for Israel.

Majority rule, as provided for in a democracy, is not without necessary and appropriate limits, checks and balances. It would behoove Tobin to consider such necessities before denigrating those who truly respect Israel’s democracy and seek to preserve it.

Lawrence Serlin, Havertown


  1. Anytime a change is made that the left dislikes, democracy is about to be decimated. It’s laughable since the only threat to democracy in Israel, is the left’s refusal to at least hear the governments complaints and negotiate in good faith to compromise with them. In America we have a constitution which limits each branches powers, yes even the Judiciary’s. Israel doesn’t have a constitution which allowed the Supreme Court in the nineties to grab powers which made it tyrannical. It now decides what laws, any laws passed by the Knesset it will cancel for any reason that it defines as unreasonable. That makes the for-life non-elelected judiciary into the dominant branch of government, devoid of any limits on it’s powers. It also makes it into a super legislature which is unresponsive to the Israeli voters and therefore undemocratic. Added to that is the fact that the Supreme Court controls who will be allowed to join its ranks thus passing on its leftist slant to the next generation of jurists. In the recent demonstrations the mobs, spurred on by the losers of elections for the past 40 years, overrode the democratically elected Israeli government’s reforms that it ran on and was elected on. The left sees that as democracy everyone else as tyranny, That’s the real threat to democracy. That being said negotiations have to happen with limits placed on the Imperial Supreme Court.

  2. Regarding my letter appearing above, “History’s Lessons,” I noted that Israel’s enemies are not now at the gates. To my chagrin, but not surprise, the events in Israel on Thursday and Friday of this week may indicate the contrary conclusion. If not “at the gates” in a literal sense, Hamas and Hezbollah have caused enough death and destruction to make my point.
    Israel’s decision making process must undergo re-evaluation regarding the current situation, as well as those to follow. Moreover, those people on the Left must attend to their own re-evaluations, in some cases to the extreme of such! For example, the Lebanon gas deal was a bad deal and should never have been made. It should now be repudiated and the sooner the better.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here