By: Roz Rothstein | The Algemeiner | August 2, 2023
Tensions in Israel have risen to alarming levels, with the current Israeli government seeking to decrease the power of the judicial branch and a widespread protest movement rising in opposition. This has extended to the Diaspora as well, with demonstrations in major cities like New York and London, and arguments raging over social media. Although this debate is focused on Israel’s judicial system, it cuts into deeper divisions about what it means for different groups to coexist in a Jewish and democratic state. These developments have been very painful to watch from the outside, and even more painful for many Israelis to face on the ground.
On July 24, the Israeli government passed the “reasonableness standard” bill. After a robust, emotional debate in the Knesset, the entire opposition left the room in protest and it passed 64-0. Supporters say this will stop abuses of power in cases where the judiciary blocks government actions for political reasons, rather than legal ones. Critics say this will enable abuses of power by the government, such as appointing ministers who were previously convicted on corruption charges. The opposition has already filed lawsuits against the bill, and promised to overturn it after the next election. In a historic first, Israel’s Supreme Court announced that all 15 of its High Court justices agreed to hear petitions against the law. Although there will be no further legislative moves until the next Knesset session in the Fall, intense protests are continuing.
In his July 19 speech to the United States Congress, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said, “I know our democracy is strong and resilient. Israel has democracy in its DNA.” Recent months have shown the deep commitment that countless Israelis have to their country and its democratic values. There have also been displays of understanding and respect between those who strongly disagree, which inspire hope.
Efforts to bring about a compromise between the government and opposition are expected to take place in the coming months, but in the meantime, serious tensions remain. Unfortunately, those who seek to eliminate Israel are exploiting this internal conflict to spread more misinformation, and further harm the world’s only Jewish state.
Now more than ever, it is crucial that even deep disagreements do not prevent us from remaining united around our love for Israel and the Jewish people. All people of good will need to ask themselves, “How can I help heal divisions and be a peacemaker?”
As a non-partisan education organization, our focus remains providing the public with updated and accurate materials that reflect history, context, and different perspectives in Israeli society. Our aim is to help people educate themselves, make up their own minds, and have productive conversations about these difficult issues. We do this in support of Israel and its Jewish and democratic values, and with hope that Israelis will find a way to resolve their differences and agree on a path forward.
Roz Rothstein is CEO and co-Founder of StandWithUs, an international non-partisan education organization that supports Israel and fights antisemitism.