Sefi Rachlevsky
Haaretz (Opinion)
November 15, 2011 - 1:00am

A democratic state prepares for an existential battle by involving all its citizens and forging international alliances; a fascist state prepares by suppressing its opponents at home, while also attempting to forge alliances overseas; a messianic fascist state both suppresses opponents at home and makes itself a pariah abroad.

Anyone who is frightened by the picture of an Israeli leader who is viewed overseas as a "liar" and an extremist, even as he takes demonstrable delight in suppressing democracy at home, must understand the context. Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu, which is now preparing for an existential war, has made a choice. Even for the Likud, this is a revolution.

Would the destruction of the Iraqi reactor in 1981 have taken place without the Israeli-Egyptian peace process of 1977-79? It's doubtful. Prime Minister Menachem Begin began dealing with the Iraqi reactor in June 1977. There's no certainty that he opted for peace with Egypt and a promise to evacuate the entire Sinai - a promise that preceded Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit - solely to create the diplomatic cover that would enable him to bomb Iraq. But it is clear that Begin understood that he had a strategic obligation to forge a path toward peace and thus calm the West's fear of his extremism.

That is why he established a government with Moshe Dayan and Yigael Yadin. That is why he withdrew from Sinai. And by virtue of his famous statement, "There are judges in Jerusalem," in which he acknowledged the supremacy of the rule of law, together with the diplomatic credit he had earned, he was able to bomb Iraq despite the many opponents of the move - though with the enthusiastic support of the chief of staff and the air force commander.

And Begin was not unique. Anyone who had an in-depth conversation with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1992 grasped what had led him into the peace process. Ever since his first term as premier, Rabin had been fine with the idea of needing a visa to visit the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, but he had a strategic reason for this move.

In 1992, he saw Iran's nuclear program and its religious extremism as the true threat to Israel - so he adopted an orderly plan for dealing with it. The peace process was meant to convert the window of nuclear supremacy that Israel, according to foreign sources, had opened in 1971 into stabilizing agreements that would cool down regional tensions.

In the world that viewed Rabin as a strategic "friend" - which went far beyond U.S. President Bill Clinton - the power of the strategic cover he had given Israel was enormous. This cover could have enabled a transition from nuclear ambiguity to open deterrence; it could have enabled Israel to come under NATO's defensive and deterrent umbrella; and if necessary, it could have enabled Israel to attack with widespread international support.

Thus, Netanyahu isn't Churchill, but Chamberlain. Like Chamberlain, he has chosen to continue down his own path as if there were no existential threat. And for Netanyahu, who is a messianic version of Chamberlain, continuing down his own path means continuing his assault on democracy, even, or more accurately, especially to the point of destroying the Supreme Court. Thus, Jerusalem, as in the days of the Great Revolt that led to the destruction of the Second Temple, is burning the granaries of both domestic and international support.

The crown jewel of this anti-democratic wave has disguised itself as a mere technical matter. But changing the composition of the Judicial Appointments Committee is not technical in the least. In Israel, which has no constitution, where the legislature functions as an arm of the executive, and where parts of the media have been conquered by the government, the independence of the legal system is the last remaining barrier. Once politicians, by means of these maneuvers, have gained control of the court, the last remnants of Israeli democracy will be gone.

The fascist majority that is taking over will then have the power to carry out additional maneuvers before the elections - once again, practically overnight. It will, for instance, be able to prevent an Arab party from running, so that the Arabs will boycott the elections, and also to allow overseas Jews to vote, all without any real judicial review. These minor technical changes will ensure a fascist, messianic right-wing majority for all eternity.

This, therefore, is the test for ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin, Ehud Barak and Gideon Sa'ar, and, above all, for Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who seems as if he is enabling and even pushing this putsch against the court. All the shock that Rivlin and his colleagues have voiced about the Knesset's anti-democratic legislation isn't worth a red cent. Anyone who facilitates the political destruction of that last remnant of democracy, the Supreme Court - and especially at such a fateful moment - is launching an assault on Israel. The rest of these atrocious laws are mere bagatelles. Control of the court is what matters.

Israel is thus being led into its confrontation with Iran not by the world's "friend," but by someone who has made himself loathed both in Israel and abroad as an anti-democratic "liar." Chamberlain was tossed out by his colleagues at the last minute, once his strategic error became clear. If Israel wants to continue existing, Netanyahu must suffer a similar fate - and he must be toppled before the clouds clear.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017