Weekly Update: Israel’s political crisis 

editor - 5 August 2023

Last week, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed the “Reasonableness Law” – an amendment to the Basic Law: Judiciary prohibiting the Supreme Court from striking down government decisions on the basis that they are, in the Court’s view, “unreasonable”.

This is the first part of a larger package of reforms to the Israeli judicial system proposed by the right/religious Netanyahu-led government to claw back the powers that the mainly left/secular Israeli Supreme Court has given itself over recent decades. The coalition also intends to prevent the Supreme Court from having the last say on whether legislation contradicts the nation’s Basic Laws; to prevent the court vetoing cabinet appointments or reversing administrative decisions by individual cabinet ministers; to give government much greater say in appointing judges; and to reduce the customary independence enjoyed by the Attorney-general.

Over the last months, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been protesting against the reforms. It is the most bitter internal civil conflict since the country’s birth in 1948.

The liberal parts of Israeli society strongly oppose the reforms, believing they fundamentally erode the rule of law. They regard members of the current governing coalition as racist, bigoted, and corrupt, and fear that the religious national and ultra-orthodox (Haredi) parties in the current coalition are using these reforms in order to impose their “messianic” values on the majority of Israelis who are secular.

Proponents of the reforms, on the other hand, argue that the Supreme Court is an unelected body that has illegitimately aggregated to itself powers since the 1990s to override the will of the legislature and elected government. They argue that the “reasonableness” doctrine was an invention of a secular court enabling the elite caste of unelected and mainly left-wing lawyers to block legislation and government decisions they regard as objectionable.

They also argue that removal of this “reasonableness” doctrine does not prevent the court from using other mechanisms to strike down grossly excessive or abusive exercises of legislative or executive power.

It is notable that prior to the formation of the current government, several opposition leaders, including Yair Lapid, Avigdor Lieberman and Gideon Sa’ar, have all spoken out in favor of judicial reform.

However Israel has no constitution or other checks and balances on executive power. Therefore many regard the court as the only institutional restraint on excessive use of power. There is a strong sense that even if the reforms are right, forcing these changes in light of the extremist views of some coalition parties that are not widely shared is dangerous, arrogant and unnecessarily divisive.

The eruption of the current crisis reflects deep divisions within Israeli society that have been brewing for decades. There are huge differences of opinion within Jewish world as to what it means for Israel to be a “Jewish and demographic” state. One division is between secular and religious, another is between liberals and conservatives. As one leading commentator, Greg Sheridan, recently explained: “Liberal Israelis are determined to hang on to the court to enforce their preferred norms; conservative Israelis are determined to use their growing electoral clout to make the official norms reflect the new society. Demographics have moved Israeli politics to the right while the court has moved to the left.”

Whatever the causes, the results are much anger, bitterness, a strong sense of pain, and growing chaos and uncertainty. As Sheridan observes: “What is tragic is the mutual demonisation of the parties, the breakdown of the willingness to lose an argument, which underlies democracy.”

In this time of crisis, let us pray fervently that the Lord will restore unity in the Jewish people, that as one people they may “return to the Lord” (Hosea 14) and seek to serve God alone with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

The Editorial Team – Israel & Christians Today

9th of Av: Mourning the Destruction of the Temple

Rev. Kees de Vreugd writes: “In the second half of the first century, the Jews in the land of Israel rebelled against Roman rule. But Roman supremacy was great. Eventually, the Jewish insurgents entrenched themselves in Jerusalem, which was besieged by the Romans for three years. The term Jewish revolt suggests a certain unity, but nothing was further from the truth. Even in besieged Jerusalem, different Jewish factions also fought each other to the death. The city was finally taken by Roman general Titus, who would later become emperor. The real reason for the fall of the second temple, according to Jewish tradition, was the people’s internal divisions, selfishness and hatred of the people’s fellow man. But after 9 Av, then, words of consolation may sound: “Comfort, comfort My people”. These words from Isaiah 40 herald four Sabbaths of consolation.”
> Read more..

Long-overdue judicial reform process finally underway 

Alex Traiman writes at JNS: “For those who claim that Israel will no longer be governed by the rule of law, nothing could be further from the truth. Should the newly minted law go into effect, the court will still maintain its authority to rule on petitions and even overturn legislation based on established legal principles. The court will lose its authority to overturn legislation on the discretionary basis of what it deems to be acceptable or proper.”
> Read more..

Israel implodes. The PM divides and dissembles. And MKs who could save us are silent

David Horovitz writes at Times of Israel: “It’s like we’ve been taken over by a deranged, masochistic demolition squad. Except that the Jewish supremacists in the coalition know exactly what they’re doing. And the prime minister who empowered them is dissembling as Israel implodes, fanning the flames as the country burns. Israelis have been turned against each other. Our enemies are emboldened, our allies baffled and horrified. The economy is collapsing. The military is torn.”
> Read more..

The Barley Harvest | The Book of RUTH with Johannes Gerloff #20

The homecoming at the time of the barley harvest promises fruit, even restoration.



Hosea 14

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
“Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount warhorses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’
to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

“I will heal their waywardness
and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon
he will send down his roots;
    his young shoots will grow.
His splendor will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine—
Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.
Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a flourishing juniper;
your fruitfulness comes from me.”

Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.