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Israel’s Avalanche – The Atlantic

Israel’s Avalanche – The Atlantic

Israel’s democracy is still intact, but the country has already lost something essential.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:

Utter Collapse

As Israel nears the end of a week of turmoil, its democracy remains intact. On Monday, the country’s Benjamin Netanyahu–led ruling coalition—the most hard-right government in Israel’s history—passed one component of its planned judicial overhaul. The proposed legislation has inspired months of outcry from Israelis, many of whom believe, with good reason, that these changes would swiftly erode the country’s democracy. This past spring, my colleague Yair Rosenberg explained some of the most concerning aspects of the overhaul:

The radical wish list produced by Netanyahu’s coalition seeks not to reform the court but to neuter it, and would essentially allow the ruling government to appoint all judges and override their decisions. This plan was composed in the halls of conservative think tanks, with no input from opposition parties and no attempt to broker a national consensus. What’s more, this effort to fundamentally revise Israel’s democratic order came from a government that received less than half the vote in the last election.

As Yair noted today, the piece of legislation passed on Monday was actually the least significant of the proposed list. “Contrary to the far right’s pledge, the government did not enact its plan to subordinate the appointment of Supreme Court judges to politicians. Nor did it grant the coalition the ability to override judicial decisions,” Yair writes. But even so, Israel has already lost something that could be impossible to regain: basic trust among its citizens.

“Polls consistently show that two-thirds of Israel’s citizens oppose the ruling coalition’s unilateral overhaul of the judiciary,” Yair explains, because “most Israelis simply do not trust the intentions of their own government. They do not believe that Netanyahu, let alone the extremist allies he depends upon to maintain his power, will be more reasonable than the unelected Supreme Court. And they do not believe that the coalition will stop with this small salvo against the judiciary when it has already announced its intentions to deconstruct the entire edifice.”

This lack of trust goes both ways, and it extends far beyond Israel’s standard partisan politics, Yair writes:

Rather than attempting to calm the waters and reestablish civic trust, Netanyahu’s far-right ministers have rubbed their recent victory in the opposition’s face and promised more of the same. “The salad bar is open,” crowed [Minister of National Security Itamar] Ben-Gvir on Saturday night, framing the impending reasonableness reform as merely the appetizer for a much more forbidding buffet … He and his allies have cast the hundreds of thousands of anti-overhaul street protesters as “privileged anarchists” and foreign-funded enemies, rather than fellow citizens expressing genuine concern. Something has gone terribly wrong in a country where this is how leaders speak about those they are supposed to shepherd.

Israel’s “utter collapse of shared solidarity” is unprecedented in its 75-year-history, Yair notes. The country’s Supreme Court is set to rule on the legality of the new legislation this coming fall. But however it decides, Israel has “already lost a core component of any functioning democracy—the sense of collective concern among citizens.”

Natan Sachs, the director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, points out how the erosion of Israel’s democracy threatens its citizens:

If Israel is not fully democratic, then the state—which holds together a remarkably diverse Jewish population—can come undone. For Israel’s Arab citizens, the struggle to find their place in Israeli society has been all the more difficult, but their economic, social, and political gains in recent years are also threatened as judicial limits to the rule of a political majority that usually excludes them are removed.

Writing from Israel earlier this week, the author Daniel Gordis painted a picture of a country falling apart—as he puts it, “a country of broken hearts.” Gordis described one particular example of the fracturing of Israeli society: Military reservists, who play a crucial role in the preparedness of the Israel Defense Forces (and who are generally seen as an apolitical group, given the country’s near-universal conscription laws), have pledged to drop out of voluntary service “by the thousands,” breaking with one of Israeli society’s core social contracts in protest over their government’s actions. As Gordis writes, “The tacit agreements that have held Israel together for 75 years are unraveling at an unimaginable pace.”


Today’s News

  1. Economic growth in the U.S. exceeded expectations in the second quarter, reducing recession concerns.
  2. Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers reportedly met with officials in the office of Special Counsel Jack Smith, indicating that federal prosecutors may be getting close to bringing an indictment against Trump in connection with his 2020-election-interference efforts.
  3. On Wednesday evening, soldiers in Niger declared a coup against President Mohamed Bazoum, who was elected in 2021 in the country’s first democratic transfer of power since it achieved independence.

Evening Read

Illustration showing Harvard graduation gown but the person wearing it is invisible
Photo-illustration by Joanne Imperio / The Atlantic. Source: Getty.

No One Deserves to Go to Harvard

By Jerusalem Demsas

No one deserves a seat at Harvard, but only some people are supposed to feel bad about the one they get.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that race-based affirmative action violated the equal-protection clause, spurring a news cycle about the admissions advantages conferred on certain people of color. The preferential admissions treatment that racial minorities received is just one bonus among many, however. A new study from the economic research group Opportunity Insights quantifies the advantages of wealth in higher education: The ultra rich are much likelier to gain admission to elite colleges than anyone else, even when controlling for academic success.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic

Culture Break

A photo of soccer players celebrating after the 1991 World Cup.
Tommy Cheng / AFP / Getty

Listen. Are you plagued by the feeling that everyone used to be nicer? Don’t succumb—it’s not true, Hanna Rosin explains in the latest episode of Radio Atlantic.

Watch. The Women’s World Cup (on FOX Sports and Youtube TV) showcases a flourishing U.S. women’s professional league—but it wasn’t always that way.

Play our daily crossword.

Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.

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