by Ehud Barak -- originally in Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 6)
1. I’ll start from the end. The fight has begun. This isn’t a false alarm. Tzav-8 [the Israeli military term for emergency call-up orders]. Israeli democracy is in certain and imminent danger of collapse.
Bad things happen when good citizens are silent. Every open-eyed citizen in a society that wishes to survive has to ask himself: “Where do I stand in this fight?’ He needs to give an honest answer to that question, even if painfully and with a heavy heart—and must act accordingly. For many of us, this fight will be the most important thing we ever do. A thin layer of gatekeepers still stands between us and calamity. I don’t know whether and how they will act. We may very well find ourselves forced to fight no matter which way we turn. It is going to be hard. Work, sweat and tears. Let’s hope there isn’t any blood. This fight will be won by demonstrations in the streets, the city squares, on the roads, at our workplaces and in the corridors of higher education. The sparks of collective will, resoluteness and unity of purpose are now being ignited. If we are forced to do so, civil disobedience will also break out. And if the effort to induce the collapse of the [principles laid out by the] Declaration of Independence continues, it [civil disobedience] will only intensify further. When a million citizens head into the streets, this evil government will fall.
I don’t know how long that will take and how much damage will be done. I do know with certainty that at the end of the day we will prevail. That is what has happened time and time again in the past hundreds of years among peoples that were forged in a tempest out of “tribes” and groups with different identities, distinguished from one another in their interpretation of the purpose of the national existence that was jointly achieved. In nearly all cases, the people who champion humanity and liberty were the ones who prevailed, even if along the way, the course charted by those nations passed through periods of benighted dictatorship. And dictatorships, for nations that have succumbed to them, aren’t ousted by means of elections. Things will be darkest, as always, a moment before the dawn. I know that we will prevail because we are on the right side of the truth and the right side of history. When forced, we know how to fight. We know why and for what we are about to fight, and that is why we will have the wherewithal to overcome any and every fear. When all of us join hands and act together even in the direst of moments, victory will arrive.
2. And now, to the beginning. Just ten days after the election, the cat was let out of the bag. [This is] a government run amok. [A government that] wants everything and wants it immediately. Not a reform to the justice system, which may be needed, but rather a blitz designed to crush it. Not to correct the way the Israel Police operates, but to subordinate it politically to a well-known provocateur who has 53 indictments and eight convictions on his record. Not to correct public norms in Israel, but to open a door wide to corruption, racism and homophobia. A man standing trial for bribery, who pledged (but never signed) a conflict of interests agreement so the High Court of Justice would allow him to run for prime minister, has on one hand appointed a justice minister as part of his effort to select the very judges who will preside over his appeal with his one hand, while on the other appointing a man who has already been convicted three ties of bribery and financial malfeasance as a senior cabinet minister—a man who is due to be given control over the state’s coffers in the future. Three ministers, including two rabid racists, will act as God’s messengers in their effort to shatter the IDF’s chain-of-command and unity. All that has been done while simultaneously pouncing with alacrity on the opportunity to ignite the political-territorial conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and to turn it into a religious war between Israel and Islam.
And of course there are also a few additional items for dessert as well: a homophobic zealot who has been given control over school curricula; a retrograde minister who believes that a doctor should have the prerogative of refusing treatment to a patient because of his religion, sexual orientation or the color of his skin; and a delusional MK with a military background who has demanded that arrest warrants be issued against the people who up until two weeks ago were the prime minister and defense minister, accusing them of treason. Ministers are to be allowed to appoint sycophants, friends and/or political operators who lack any professional experience as ministry directors general and legal advisors. Lists of public servants have been drawn up for the purpose of “systematically purging” the civil service of anyone who has expressed disloyalty to our “dear leader.” Three drivers from the Prime Minister’s Office who have served every prime minister for the past 30 years suddenly discovered that their job has been redefined as a “fiduciary,” and they have been fired without explanation. But everyone knows what the explanation is. They were questioned by the police about the prime minister’s corruption and, as good citizens, they told the truth. That is their only sin.
That distortion has already begun to trickle down. The Landwer Café [in Tel Aviv] refused to serve “leftists.” A 60-year-old woman was detained at a train station because she was wearing a shirt with the Kumi Israel logo [an anti-Netanyahu organization]. We may also have already seen an attempt to run over demonstrators in Beer Sheva. And we’re being told that this disgusting state of affairs is the “people’s will?” Is this what ordinary, hard-working and decent citizens had in mind and dreamed of when they voted for the Likud? I know a lot of people who voted for the Likud and the right-wing parties, and a lot of religious Israelis who have a natural aversion to most of the corruptive decisions that supposedly are being made in their name. But who cares about them on the day after the elections? This isn’t the “people’s will.” This is a self-serving alliance that has been formed between corrupt politicians and racists who have extorted the corrupt politician in the service of a delusional and dangerous eschatological vision. And every single one of the people spouting that nonsense, from the prime minister all the way down to the last minister of humbug affairs, are mired up their necks in the practice of telling the “big lie,” as was done by past benighted regimes.
A weak prime minister who is vulnerable to blackmail, a master-liar according to his own partners-blackmailers, explains in excellent English about his “tremendous” efforts to protect democratic values, while doing the very opposite in Hebrew. Meanwhile, the justice minister has been spreading a bald-faced lie as if the High Court of Justice has seized control of our lives and has taken for itself powers that belong rightfully to the Knesset and the government. That is a lie! The Knesset has legislated a total of 1,893 laws to date, and the High Court of Justice has intervened in just 22 cases. Mr. Levin has also told us that Israel is the only country in the democratic world in which lawmakers don’t select the Supreme Court justices. That isn’t true. The truth is that in many countries the coalition faces constraints in electing Supreme Court justices. Those constraints take the form of judges selection committees that include professionals (the UK and India), mandating a consensus between coalition and opposition (Germany), or the cooperation of several independent authorities (the United States and Italy). The obsessive justice minister has also said that most other democracies have an override clause. That is a lie! The truth is that almost no constitutional democracies have an override clause. And the countries that do (such as Canada, for example), have an iron-clad constitution replete with a bill of rights, a federal regime and additional checks and balances—which we don’t have. In Canada, obviously, there is zero risk that an override clause might be used to extricate the prime minister and some of his cabinet ministers from trial or from the consequences of their prior convictions by means of expedited, ad hominem and retroactive legislation. But that’s the way the Canadians are. They don’t suffer from the boundless recklessness and the lust for “power, money and respect” that the leaders of our government suffer from.
3. This is an elected government and it is a legal government. However, the actions it has taken, as described above, and its fully-known plans for the future—at the center of which is a plan to overthrow the system of government and to assassinate the Declaration of Independence and the fundamental values for which the State of Israel fought and was established to serve—turn it into a patently illegitimate government. It is therefore the duty of every citizen who recognizes that to be the case to join the fight for the homeland, its security and future; for the Declaration of Independence; for equality, human fraternity, dignity, rights and liberties.
As has been said many times before, a democracy needs to have the wherewithal to protect itself from people who use the rules that it created and the liberties that it offers to destroy it from within. That is precisely the situation we are now facing. We have to recognize that [what this government is doing] is nothing short of overthrowing the system of government. A young man named Costa Black wrote to Benny Gantz: “Benny, Netanyahu isn’t interested in healing, but in dividing. He isn’t interested in making changes to the justice system but in achieving its utter destruction. He isn’t interested in dialogue, but in subduing and crushing democracy and the rule of law. We won’t accept from the leaders of [our political] camp anything except a fight against a radical government that is intent on destroying all of the foundations of Israeli democracy.” Costa is only about half as old as Israel’s gatekeepers, party leaders, Supreme Court justices, senior civil servants and symbols of government. We can only hope that they all come to possess the clarity of vision held by that young man.
4. And from here, we return to the beginning: It’s time to act. This isn’t a false alarm.