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Israel’s democracy is in jeopardy

Netanyahu: trying to avoid prosecution. Abir Sultan/AFP/Getty

Israel’s “sometimes tumultuous” politics is part of its proud tradition as a “boisterous and pluralistic democracy”, says The New York Times. Yet the far-right government about to take power marks an “alarming break” with its predecessors. PM Benjamin Netanyahu has handed significant authority to his “ultra-religious and ultra-nationalist” coalition partners in the hope that they will protect him from prosecution for corruption. Incoming ministers include those who have supported a Jewish terrorist organisation; who back the “outright annexation of the West Bank”; and a politician who once described himself as a “proud homophobe”. The country as a whole is also lurching rightwards, in part due to ultra-religious families having many children. About 60% of Jewish Israelis identify as right-wing; among 18- to 24-year-olds, it’s 70%.

Israel, as the columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently, is “entering a dark tunnel”. The very “ideal of a democratic Jewish state” is in jeopardy. The new government is likely to curtail the authority of Israel’s Supreme Court, freeing itself from “judicial restraint”, and to expand and legalise Israeli settlements in the West Bank to the point that a two-state solution would become impossible. “These moves are troubling, and America’s leaders should say so.” Our commitment to Israel has long been an “unquestioned principle”, but that principle rests on some day creating a Palestinian state. Those hopes have now dimmed.