Opposition members of the Israeli Knesset have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of seeking to turn the country into a dictatorship.
The latest outrage for the center-of-left Kadima opposition party was the parliament’s passage of two bills that will shift Israel’s Supreme Court farther to the right, in accordance with the ideology of Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party.
Under terms of the proposed legislation (which remain two steps away from becoming law), legal barriers blocking a conservative judge named Asher Grunis from becoming president of the Supreme Court would be lifted. In addition, another conservative, Jerusalem Judge Noam Sohlberg, would receive an appointment to a committee that appoints judges on the Court.
The bills were in response to outrage by Netanyahu and his supporters of orders made by the Supreme Court to dismantle certain settlements built by Jewish hard-liners on the West Bank without permission.
Moreover, conservatives and others who support the bill. also want to present more legislation that would permit the Knesset to cancel the appointment of any Supreme Court judge they disapprove of.
Meanwhile, opposition figures fear the measures will compromise the historic independence of the judiciary and also pose the “gravest” threat to Israel’s democratic character since the Jewish state was founded in 1948.
Tzipi Livni, the head of the Kadima, charged Netanyahu of attempting “to transform Israeli into a type of dictatorship.”
There is an attempt to change the State of Israel, this is what Netanyahu wants to do, she said. We have a prime minister who is afraid of criticism and is dealing with survival.
Labor Chairman Shelly Yachimovich warned the government: If Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn't want to be remembered as the enemy of the rule of law, he must immediately block the flow of bills and measures that, when combined, make for an unprecedented assault on the courts, the media and any other institution identified with the protection of democracy.”
Kadima members protested the decisions by waving black flags to mourn the death of democracy-- their flags were confiscated by security and the demonstrators were subsequently removed from the chamber by the speaker.
Also of concern to the Kadima and Israeli leftists, a cabinet committee recently supported a proposal to end all foreign funding of human rights groups in the country that have challenged the government on issues related to settlements and to Palestinians.
In addition, some right-wing Israeli MPs plan to remove Arabic (the language of Israel’s Arab populace) as one of the nation’s official languages.
The government has launched a comprehensive assault on democracy, led not by Knesset members from the margins of the right wing but by the prime minister, Knesset Member Dov Khenin of the left-wing Hadash party said, according to YNET.
Netanyahu understands that a large part of the public opposes his policies. His best defense is offense, and his is attacking. He is changing the fundamental rules of democracy.
Shaul Mofaz, another opposition member in the Knesset, also blasted Netanyahu.
The prime minister is trying to deepen the political control that is threatening independent judgment in Israel. He is abusing the law enforcement branches as if they were the enemies of the regime, he said.
A government that is sure of itself does not employ the ways of dark regimes.
Yoel Hasson of Kadima also condemned Netanyahu's administration.
If you're so sure in your governance, what's compelling you to pile up such extreme legislation? he asked.
The majority is enlightened, and it knows that you are leading us into darkness.
However, perhaps the most prominent opponent of the proposed measures is none other than President Shimon Peres.
Speaking at a conference for Israeli youth in Kiryat Gat, Peres lamented: “These proposals deviate from the basis of democracy. A government is not elected to rule, but to serve. Every leader must be measured in one way: Is he serving us or are we serving him? I urge all elected officials – if you want to serve then you must serve the entire public.