We should be pleased that the New York Times has published an editorial titled, “Israel’s Embattled Democracy” that describes many worrisome trends in Israeli political life. The Times is doing its part to change American perceptions of the celebrated paradigm, the only democracy in the Middle East.
The editorial is occasioned by the defection of Kadima from the governing coalition. But Kadima is very weak, as Paul Mutter observed here the other day, and since when has it been a “moderating” force? Kadima unleashed the Lebanon war and Cast Lead and was in power for years during which the West Bank settlement project went full tilt.
And the editorial has very little to say about Palestinian human rights. It observes that “Many [Israeli Palestinians] feel like second-class citizens and are deeply conflicted about their place in Israeli society,” then says: “The Palestinian population is also expanding, hastening a day when Jews could be a minority.” Well that’s not very democratic. From the Times:
Mr. Netanyahu’s past dependence on hard-line parties has manifested itself in aggressive settlement building and resistance to serious peace talks with the Palestinians — who themselves have not shown enough commitment to a solution. Without Kadima’s moderating force, these trends will continue.
There are other worrisome developments. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has expressed concern over “intensifying infringements on democratic freedoms.” In the past two years, activists say, more than 25 bills have been proposed or passed by the Parliament to limit freedom of speech and of the press; penalize, defund or investigate nongovernmental groups; restrict judicial independence; and trample minority rights.
One of Israel’s greatest strengths is its origins as a democratic state committed to liberal values and human rights. Those basic truths are in danger of being lost.