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Government and Politics"Historical decline" in democracy in Israel... Netanyahu leads

“Historical decline” in democracy in Israel… Netanyahu leads

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From the category of “liberal democracy” to “electoral (only) democracy”, Israel declined in the democracy scale issued by the Swedish research institute “V-Dem” for the first time in 5 decades.

The newly issued report attributed this historical decline to “the significant decline in indicators measuring transparency and predictability of the law, and the government’s attacks on the judicial authority,” at a time when the country is experiencing political division over a number of controversial issues, internally and externally.

Analysis by Israeli media agreed with the issue of the decline of democracy in the country based on the indicators mentioned in the report, while the positions of experts varied regarding the results and conclusions of the new release.

Israeli political researcher, Elhanan Miller, believes that the results of the index are “worrying for Israelis,” as they “reflect the state of decline witnessed by democratic standards in political life in the country.”

Soft takeover

The report of the institute, affiliated with the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, measures the state of democracy in the world according to principles that include the electoral process, liberalism, rotation of power, and equality before the law.

The Institute ranks it from most to least free into categories: liberal democracy, electoral democracy, gray zone democracy, gray authoritarianism, electoral authoritarianism and closed autocracy.

The newspaper Haaretz published an analysis entitled “In Netanyahu’s Israel, the Gaza War Is Wrecking What Remains of Democratic Values”, in which it reviewed the measures of “the most far-right government in Israel’s history” in its battle against “liberal democracy.”

According to the report, liberal democracy represents the highest degree of democracy, and means fulfilling electoral democracy, the presence of legislative and judicial restrictions on executive authority, and the protection of civil liberties and equality before the law.

Electoral democracy means the presence of free, multi-party elections, satisfactory degrees of the right to vote, freedom of expression, and freedom of organization.

Miller believes, in a statement to the media, that apart from the current discussions about the war in Gaza, there are “major divisions between Israeli movements and politicians… and it is unfortunate to reach this point.”

The Israeli newspaper’s report spoke of the country’s executive branch embarking on a process of “regime coup” of the rest of the institutions by issuing draft laws and decisions that serve its interests.

He pointed to the example of the Knesset passing a new law to increase the number of representatives of government ministries in the planning and construction committees, which are headed by “far-right political twins,” namely the Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties.

Haaretz considered that while this law, which was presented by the parties of both government members, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, appears to be a “banal technicality,” it nevertheless reflects how the “takeover creeps along undetected”.

In another example, Gayle Talcher, professor of political science at Hebrew University, noted in an interview with the newspaper that “Education Minister Yoav Kisch has backed appointments to the Council for Higher Education in order to stack this independent body that supervises higher education policies with supporters of the judicial overhaul, thereby reducing its independence. A different bill proposes to give military reservists an exemption from courses needed for their degrees,” which means “prioritizing political loyalty over professionalism.”

The newspaper also listed a group of other cases that reveal political interference in the decisions and work of a number of other bodies and institutions, which in some cases reached the point of dominating their powers during the current government term, noting that this is what prompted the director of the Government Companies Authority to resign.

It also stated that before and during the war in Gaza, Ben Gvir interfered “deeply” in the professional activities of the Ministry of National Security, which he leads, and also in operational police decisions, which led to the resignation of senior officials and the intervention of the Attorney General to prevent Ben Gvir from continuing his behavior.

In this context, legal researcher Limor Yehuda pointed out in a statement to Haaretz that “the government’s overall aim is to “further restrict democratic freedoms and move to a more authoritarian rule.”

In turn, Professor of Constitutional Law at Richman University, Adam Shinar, spoke about what he described as a “regime coup,” noting that it is to “strengthen its power at the expense of other branches of government, including the Knesset and professional [public] service.”

For its part, the Times of Israel newspaper attributed the decline in the ranking of democracy in Israel to the government’s efforts to pass “judicial overhaul” and legislation that prevents the High Court of Justice from repealing laws that are considered “unreasonable.”

During the past months, members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, consisting of far-right religious parties, showed open hostility and criticized the Supreme Court, their highest judicial body, and accused it of leaning to the left, according to the newspaper.

The newspaper quoted the institute’s report as saying that among the things that undermined democracy was the “freedom from torture” index, which witnessed a fundamental decline.

In this context, Miller emphasizes that the general findings of the report demonstrate the importance of returning to the Israeli voter and the need for elections as quickly as possible, in light of the internal divisions, especially with regard to judicial and legal amendments that the government has begun to implement since it came to power.

Confidence decline

The Times of Israel reported in another report on the 2023 Democracy Index issued by the Israel Democracy Institute, “we found a conspicuously low level of trust in the government and the Knesset — less than a quarter of the public trusts their elected officials.”

The report, which is based on an annual survey conducted by the institute, also found that 30 percent of respondents to the survey in December expressed confidence in the media, 23 percent had confidence in the government, and 19 percent had confidence in the Knesset.

In this context, Miller explains that the government’s popularity, according to various opinion polls, “is moving towards collapse and decline, as the Israelis have lost confidence in Netanyahu’s coalition, and this was clearly demonstrated after October 7, which ended any hope they had in it.”

Miller points out that “the issuance of some laws was the most important criterion behind the decline in Israel’s rating in the democracy index,” as we see a decline in the level of democratic work, which is evident in the failure to return to consulting the Knesset in many governmental decisions, which represents the isolation of the executive authority and its overtaking of the rest. the authorities”.

In addition to what he considered “the strengthening of the religious institution through the Supreme Rabbinate,” which also remains, in his words, “a negative indicator regarding democratic standards within the country.”

The majority is with the coalition

The Times of Israel points out that despite Israel’s decline in ranking, it remains at the forefront of the region, as it is considered the first and only “electoral (only) democracy” in the group of countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

In this context, political analyst, Mordechai Kedar, believes that Israel is a democratic state and will remain so, criticizing “Western reports that say the opposite.”

Kedar points out in a statement to the media, “There is no evidence that Israel is a democratic state than the freedom to protest in the country’s streets against any decision,” in addition to the fact that “Israelis vote and elect the government and the Knesset.”

He adds that Israel remains “democratic in light of the continued work of the Supreme Court, which can even cancel decisions passed by the Knesset.”

The Israeli analyst continues that Israel “is also democratic in its mental structure,” and such international reports “do not concern the Israelis, near or far.”

Last January, thousands of Israelis demonstrated in central Tel Aviv to demand early elections to oust Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The demonstrators marched in Habima Square, some carrying banners criticizing Netanyahu with slogans such as “The Face of Evil” and “Elections Now.”

Even before October 7, Netanyahu faced massive demonstrations against the judicial reform that his government was trying to pass.

In response to the criticism directed at the ruling coalition, he says that the latter has a “majority in the Knesset” and it is not possible in any democratic country for a minority to control the reins of affairs because this turns it into a dictatorship. Therefore, what the people who elected and voted for this coalition chose must be respected.

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Kiranpreet Kaur
Kiranpreet Kaur
Editor at The Eastern Herald. Writes about Politics, Militancy, Business, Fashion, Sports and Bollywood.

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