Israel is a democracy, not a theocracy

Irl Solomon

By Irl Solomon

Henry Berger’s Aug. 1 commentary (“Israel has evolved from democracy to theocracy”) demonstrates a lack of understanding and knowledge of the Israeli political system and current issues. 

Berger attacks the new “basic law” as giving Jews exclusive rights, although nothing has changed in that regard — no group has lost any rights or powers previously enjoyed. For example, one clause of the law downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing, but also cryptically stipulates that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.” (Surprise, the law isn’t perfect, and will probably be amended.)  

Berger also decries the practice of searching arrivals at Ben Gurion Airport and at border crossings, as if there have been no suicide terror attacks or Intifadas. He cites (Israel’s first Prime Minister) David Ben-Gurion’s warning against the “occupation” of territories won in the Six Day War, as if eight Arab nations had not immediately drafted the infamous “Three No’s: No Peace, No Recognition, No Negotiations,” and as if the Palestinians had not rejected at least two good-faith peace offers from Israel. The territories are not “occupied,” they are disputed according to international law. They were never owned by the Palestinians, nor was there ever a Palestinian state.

The monopoly of life-cycle events by the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate is a serious a problem, as Berger points out, and it is true the Israeli government is controlled by a right of center coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But the decisions made by that government and the Knesset reflect the majority will of the people of Israel as expressed in democratic elections. Memo to the many liberals and “progressives” who decry these facts: the solution is obvious. Defeat the coalition government at the polls and replace the prime minister. 

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Why has this not occurred? Because the Israeli left is marginalized due to its inability to persuade voters that left-wing parties should be trusted to protect the nation. They blame Netanyahu for not making peace, instead of placing blame where it belongs, on the Palestinian “peace partners.” Israelis have responded by electing a government — repeatedly — in which they have confidence. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and their ilk constitute a clear and present danger to Israel’s survival. As a direct result, the left-wing parties have won a very small percentage of Knesset seats.

 Netanyahu reaches out to friendly right-wing parties in Europe (no, they are not Nazis, they are strongly pro-Israel) as well as the Saudis and Egyptians and Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin because survival is the issue, not purity. There are problems with Israel’s democratic system, just as there are problems with America’s and Britain’s and France’s and Germany’s and all the others. No system is perfect, except perhaps the wishful one envisioned by Berger whereby the left controls the government. Democracy is all about who wins and who loses elections, and for some time now Israel’s left has lost the confidence of Israeli voters. If Israel is indeed a “theocracy,” it has become another Iran. 

No rational person believes that.

Irl Solomon is a retired history teacher with 38 years in East St. Louis schools, a Docent at the HMLC, and a Board Member of Shaving Israel and St. Louis Friends Of Israel.