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Israeli Politics

Majority of Israelis Fear Country Is In State of Emergency

A majority of Israelis, 58%, believe that their country is currently in a state of emergency after seven months of political turmoil caused by the judicial reform plan proposed by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January. This is according to a survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI).

Israel’s opposition charges the reform plan would harm Israel’s democracy by taking away the ability of the country’s Supreme Court to serve as a “check” on government actions. The government counters that it is just trying to “restore” democracy by undoing what it says has been decades of the courts’ encroachment on the powers of the democratically elected Knesset.

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An overwhelming majority of 75% of Israelis who identify as on the left politically said that their mood is worse than usual. But only 48.5% of those in the center responded that they feel that way and only 23% of Israelis on the Right said so.

Israel has always been a politically divided, sectoral society. For decades there has been overt hostility between the left and the right, the secular and the religious, and so forth. But in recent times things have seem to have gotten worse. The divisions are even worse than in the aftermath of the Yitzhak Rabin assassination almost 30 years ago, which is hard to believe.

And, for the first time in its history, people are actually threatening to not answer call-ups to perform their reserve military duty. And this even includes some air force pilots. For a country where military service and national defense are considered sacrosanct, this is a really serious problem.

On that issue, IDI found that only a small minority of Israelis believe that IDF reservists, who fail to report for duty in protest of the judicial overhaul, should be dismissed.

The survey also found that only slightly more than one-third of the Israeli public are optimistic this month regarding both the future of democratic rule in Israel and the future of Israel’s security, with the latter measure suffering a slightly larger gradual decline than the former compared to previous months.

IDI also found that over the last half a year, there has been a large increase in the share of respondents who think that the functioning of the police in response to the public protests has been inadequate. This increase has been particularly sharp on the Left and in the Center.

On the bright side, the IDI report said that July saw “small increases in the level of optimism about both the future of Israel’s security and the future of democratic rule in Israel. However, in both cases the share of optimists remains only slightly larger than one-third—that is, optimists are in the minority.”

Massive protests have rocked Israel since January when Justice Minister Yariv Levin revealed the government’s plans to alter the nature of Israel’s judicial system. The government’s judicial reform plan would greatly curtail the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to nullify legislation passed by the Knesset and also limit the authority of Israel’s attorney general. The opposition charges this would harm Israel’s democracy, eroding foreign confidence in the country and hurting its economy. And this is why the country is now on the brink of what some are describing as the biggest societal clash in Israel’s history.

The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) is an independent center of research and action dedicated to strengthening the foundations of Israeli democracy.



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