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Palestinians and Israel’s Constitutional Turmoil

posted on: Apr 5, 2023

Palestinians and Israel’s Constitutional Turmoil
A Protest Against Levin’s Legal Revolution. Azrieli Junction, March 4, 2023. Photo by Amir Terkel: Wikicommons

By: Bishara A. Bahbah / Arab America Featured Columnist

As Palestinians watch with amazement the popular revolt over the Israeli Prime Minister’s attempts at controlling Israel’s judicial system, how should Palestinians conduct themselves and why?

The first instinct is, if my enemy’s house is on fire, then let it burn.

Palestinians have believed, for a very long time, that given Israel’s social, ethnic, and religious composition coming from different countries, backgrounds, and traditions, Israel’s fabric would inevitably weaken and divide the country.

Israelis care most about their democracy, their Jewishness, and their security.

In a bold move, Benjamin Netanyahu fired his defense minister but has not implemented the decision. The defense minister had warned that civil upheaval threatened the country’s security because of the proposed so-called judicial reform. The firing was widely seen as serving Netanyahu’s interests, not those of Israel. Israelis are already up in arms over Netanyahu’s attempts to “overhaul the judicial system” primarily to shield himself from indictments for “bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.”

Those two moves demonstrated Netanyahu’s contempt for Israel’s democracy and security. Quickly after the firing, instant demonstrations spread throughout the country, calling on Netanyahu to back down and, at the very least, postpone or modify his proposed judicial amendments.

Even though Netanyahu declared last Monday a pause in the change of the judicial process till after Passover, only naïve and delusional Israelis would believe what Netanyahu says. Palestinians know Netanyahu possibly better than many Israelis. Since the Oslo Accords, Netanyahu has been lying about the implementation of Oslo. He declared his support for a two-state solution then recanted, and the list of Palestinian grievances about Netanyahu is the length of the red carpet accorded to the Arab countries who have established ties with Israel. In short, Palestinians believe that Netanyahu is a habitual liar. Now, it is the Israelis’ turn to find out how Netanyahu has lied repeatedly. His main concern is the consolidation of his power, at any cost.

Other Palestinians envy the Israeli people’s uprising to preserve their democracy. Ironically, with Israel’s full consent and sometimes active support, any loud voices of dissent among Palestinians calling for reform in their government have been squashed without mercy. Maybe now that Israelis fear for their democracy, they might start thinking about what their government has done to the Palestinians by occupying their land and depriving them of their inalienable right to live in their own independent and free democratic state.

Despite the spike in violence this year and last among Palestinians fighting Israel and the vigilante settlers who attack without restraint, Palestinians should lay low. The outrage of Israeli Jews against Netanyahu is a welcome relief to Palestinians. Let the racist pro-settler government be hammered by its people.

Palestinians in the West Bank should not seek to take advantage of Israel’s preoccupation with its public in revolt. They should let the rebellion fester, despite the pause, in the hope of bringing down this hellish coalition.  

Israel wants a Jewish state. Palestinians understand this concept, yet they cannot accept it because it will bless the permanent discrimination against Palestinians in Israel proper. Secondly, the more significant issue is that if Israel intends to hold on to the occupied Palestinian territories forever, then Israel will become an apartheid state because it has refused to accept the equal treatment of Palestinians and Jews who are under its control yet who are subjected to two sets of laws favoring the treatment of Jews.

For Israel to be a Jewish state, it cannot rule or govern other people between the Jordan River and the Meditteranean Sea. How can Israel be a Jewish state with a Palestinian majority? Israeli right-wing and religious groups don’t get it. Either Israel finds a resolution to the Israel-Palestine problem or separates itself from the Palestinians, or Israel will end up, with time, with a Palestinian majority, i.e., an apartheid state. Israel would most certainly lose its Jewish majority and identity.

Many political observers have noted that if Israel did not have the Palestinians as an enemy, Israel would have to create a new enemy to hold the country together. Israel needs an enemy or enemies to perpetuate fear and insecurity among Israelis to justify its continued occupation of Palestinian lands and keep them together in the fight against those enemies.

From a practical perspective, Israelis’ fight against judicial changes might ultimately mean very little for the Palestinians from a legal perspective. Israel’s Supreme Court has colluded with the government in not preventing settlement building. In most cases, the Supreme Court has agreed to allow land confiscations and home demolitions. It has allowed Israel to have an administrative detention system whereby hundreds and thousands of Palestinians are held without a trial for extended periods. Yes, a more radical court could make things worse. What could be worse than what is happening now with the runaway settlement building and the dispossession of the Palestinian people?

Palestinians should watch and learn from what is happening in Israel. Israel needs to be shaken to its roots to perhaps one day realize that the occupation of other people is an unforgivable human and international crime.

About the Author:  Dr. Bishara Bahbah is the vice president of the US Palestinian Council (USPC), an advocacy group based in Washington. He is the former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem-based Al-Fajr Newspaper. He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of the Kennedy School’s Middle East Institute. He served as a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks on arms control and regional security. He is currently writing a book on “Drones in the 21st Century: An inexpensive Alternative to

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