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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/28/23

The Current Israeli Constitutional Crisis: What it is Really About

Steven Jonas
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"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

Ze'ev Jabotinsky: the founder of the Zionist/Expulsionist movement(1920s)
Ze'ev Jabotinsky: the founder of the Zionist/Expulsionist movement(1920s)
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Introductory note. This column is based in part on a previous column of mine, "The Clockwork Bibi" which itself was based on earlier columns of mine on Bibi Netanyahu, Israel and the Palestinian conflict. Yes indeed, I have been writing on this subject for quite some time.

What the Political Conflict in Israel over the Power of the Supreme Court Appears to be About; and What it is Really About

It is well-known that currently in Israel there is a major conflict underway over the power and role of the Supreme Court. Indeed, the nation is very closely divided on this issue. And as is also well-known, the current Right-wing government wants to severely curtail the Supreme Court's power. In a nation that has no Constitution* but merely a set of laws and traditions, some of which pre-date the founding of the Nation of Israel in 1948, the struggle is about whether there is to be maintained a separation of powers between the legislative/administrative branch of government --- and in nations with a parliamentary system those two functions are merged --- and the judicial branch. (To my knowledge, among nations which have some form of democratic government, the separation of powers into the three branches found in the United States is unique, a function of its 18th century separation of powers established in its Constitution.)

On the surface (as least as it is perceived in this country) the struggle has to do with the criminal charges that Netanyahu has faced for quite some time now, and the role of the Supreme Court in making the final decision on that matter. However, in my view (and surely in the view of other observers, although this issue does not receive very much attention, at least in this country), THE issue --- presently spoken of in muted terms by all parties --- is rather the matter of the total expulsion of the Palestinian Arabs from what right-wing Israelis call "Greater Israel" and the Palestinians call the "Occupied (Palestinian) Territories." "Greater Israel"/"the Occupied Territories" is the land that lies between the undisputed Eastern boundary of the State of Israel proper that was established after the end of the Six Day War in 1967 and the Jordan River, which is the boundary between Israel (including the Occupied Territories) and the nation of Jordan.

This subject --- that is the creation of "Greater Israel" from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea --- has been talked about in Israel since its founding, but most often in muted terms. Over time, the far-right political forces which would attempt to raise it, occasionally with violence, as with the assassination of Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, were quickly, for the most part, shut down. However, now such voices, such as the current Minister of Defense, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the current Minister for National Security, are not only members of the Government, but obviously hold powerful positions in it. To my knowledge, neither man currently openly supports Palestinian Expulsion, but in the past each, along with members of their respective Parties certainly have expressed such positions, in one way or another.

In an example from the period of the Obama Presidency (and he was surely interested in achieving a long-term solution to "The Palestinian Question)," the day before Prime Minister Netanyahu (yes, he has been in and out of that position for quite some time now) met with the President, the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a prominent Likudnik (Likud being Netanyahu's political party), Danny Danon, said, in an Op-Ed published in The New York Times (May 19, 2011) that Israel should simply go ahead and annex the Occupied Territories. But where and when, you might ask, does the policy of "Expulsionism" of the long-time residents of what became, after the end of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Mandate for Palestine, come from?

That is: How Did We Get Here?

In the Woody Allen movie Sleeper, when his character awakens from a (very) deep sleep (very) long after the end of a catastrophic world war which he had obviously survived, he is asked about what started the war. He replies, "well, there was a man named Albert Shanker." (Only older readers, especially from the New York City area, will know who he was. But he was a bad guy, except among his most devoted followers.) For Israel and Expulsionism going back in history, there was a man named Ze'ev Jabotinsky. He was a right-wing Zionist who in the 1920s laid down the dictum that that long-range solution for what would become Israel was to establish an exclusively Jewish state within what has been held for millennia by certain Jews to be the boundaries of "The Land of Israel" "granted to the Jews" "by God." Questions of logic, history, and legality do not figure into this particular configuration for a modern State of Israel.

For Jabotinsky the solution to the problem of the Arab peoples living in the Mandate there was a simple one: expulsion. In the 1930s, the social democrat David Ben Gurion, the future first Prime Minister of Israel, referred to Jabotinsky as the "Jewish Hitler." There is a direct line from Jabotinsky down to the present Israeli leadership. Netanyahu's father was a secretary to Jabotinsky. Ariel Sharon's parents were close associates of his, and the first right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin (who led the pre-1948 Jewish anti-British terrorist organization Irgun) was strongly influenced by him.

At the time of the UN-sponsored Partition of the Mandate into Jewish and Arab sectors in 1947, the one-third of the membership of the "Jewish Agency" --- the unofficial governing body for the immigrant Jews in the Mandate --- that represented the Jabotinskyites, voted against accepting it. As it happens, Jabotinsky's, position that "'The Land of Israel' is ours and no one else's regardless of who else happens to be living there perhaps for quite some time" is now firmly ensconced in the Israeli government through certain members of its top leadership. One must note that Netanyahu himself has never, to my knowledge, taken an open, definitive position on this question.

Over the time that I have written on the policies of the right-wing Israeli governments towards the original inhabitants of the lands that currently constitute the State of Israel plus the "Occupied Territories," that is the Palestinians, I have been invariably driven to the same conclusion. That is, that since the time of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and the subsequent slow, grinding death of the so-called "Oslo Peace Process," with the almost uninterrupted run of right-wing Israeli governments (under the general label of "Likud"), any settlement other than that resulting from the expulsion of all Arabs living in the so-called "Land of Israel," other than those who are citizens of the State of Israel (and maybe them too), is indeed not in the cards. This policy is of course not openly stated, but every action, and inaction, taken by Likud-led governments in relation to the Palestinian people living within their orbit would seem to reinforce this conclusion. As it is said in the Wikipedia entry on the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin: "Rabin was disparaged personally by right-wing conservatives and Likud leaders who perceived the peace process as an attempt to forfeit the occupied territories and a capitulation to Israel's enemies. National religious conservatives and Likud party leaders believed that withdrawing from any 'Jewish' land was heresy."

Which brings us down to "What's it all about, Bibi?" Well, first of all, it's not primarily about Bibi. It is first and foremost about Expulsionism versus coming to some sort of lasting settlement with the Palestinians, both those living in the "Occupied Territories," in Gaza, and indeed in the State of Israel (in which under successive Likud government Israeli Arab citizens have been treated like second-class citizens in one way or another). For, if the current government were to adopt a series of laws that would inevitably lead to the expulsion of the Palestinians from the Occupied Territories (which more and more are of course being over-run by Israeli "settlements," protected by the government), the Supreme Court, as it is presently constituted, would, in theory at least, have the power to invalidate such laws. And that's what it's about, Bibi. That's what the massive demonstrations by Jewish Israelis --- on the surface about maintaining the present separation of powers, and exposing Netanyahu, finally, to criminal penalties for various financial/political crimes --- are really about: Expulsion. Again, perhaps even of Arab/Israeli citizens.

(What the Expulsionists would do about the world's largest present concentration camp, otherwise known as the Gaza Strip, they have apparently not thought through. The West Bank Palestinians could conceivably be forced into Jordan [although what that country would do if such an attempt were made is anybody's guess]. But as for Gaza, Egypt has made is clear that any attempt to deport its inhabitants to their country would be met with force.)

And so, in summary, that's what the current major political battle in the State of Israel is about. It ain't about Bibi (although he would certainly benefit personally if the Israeli Right can essentially castrate the Supreme Court). It's about Expulsion, just as dear old Ze'ev Jabotinsky wanted it to be. Indeed, the whole future and nature of the State of Israel rest on whether or not its Supreme Court remains as a politically independent institution.


* While Israel has no Constitution, it does have a Declaration of Independence, dating from 1948. Here is what it has to say about Israeli citizenship:

"The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."

Do you want a definition of the word "irony?" Well folks, in terms of the State of Israel under Likud, here it is.

Postscript, April 30, 2023

As it happens, of course entirely coincidentally, in Israel a poltical party is now forming, with its first principle based in the Declaration of Independence:


By GERSHON BASKIN Published: APRIL 30, 2023

"A new political party is founded in Israel for 'All of its Citizens' - opinion. The new political party called 'All of its Citizens' aims to hold Israel to its Declaration of Independence and ensure equality for all of its citizens."

(Article changed on Apr 30, 2023 at 10:46 AM EDT)

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY). As well as having been a regular political columnist on several national websites for over 20 years, he is the author/co-author/editor/co-editor of 37 books Currently, on the columns side, in addition to his position on OpEdNews as a Trusted Author, he is a regular contributor to From The G-Man.  In the past he has been a contributor to, among other publications, The Greanville PostThe Planetary Movement, and Buzzflash.com.  He was also a triathlete for 37 seasons, doing over 250 multi-sport races.  Among his 37 books (from the late 1970s, mainly in the health, sports, and health care organization fields) are, on politics: The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022; A Futuristic Novel (originally published 1996; the 3rd version was published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY, sadly beginning to come true, advertised on OpEdNews and available on  (more...)

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