July 24, 2023
Responding to the news that the most extreme and religious rightwing government in Israel’s history, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, passed into law legislation that restricts the power of Israel’s judiciary, New Israel Fund CEO, Daniel Sokatch, released the following statement:
Today is a dark day in the history of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Today, despite twenty-nine weeks of mass protest, strikes, marches, and acts of civil disobedience by hundreds of thousands of Israelis — and despite the warnings of Israel’s best friends in the world including the United States — Netanyahu’s settler-led government passed a key piece of legislation to weaken the judiciary, the only real check on the government’s power. In doing so, it has weakened Israel’s democracy, economy, security, and global standing. It is difficult to overstate just how significant this moment is.
We are watching Israeli politics realign. On one side, a camp that believes in liberal democracy, that wants to see a future of equality and freedom, pluralism, and civil rights. This camp is not perfect, but it is learning and evolving. This is the camp with which the United States, the family of democratic nations, the vast majority of American Jews, and others who wish to see a healthy democracy in Israel, stand. The other camp, which favors disassembling Israel’s democratic structures, combines the messianic, theocratic vision of the settlement movement, the fundamentalism of the ultra-Orthodox political parties, and the corrupt cronyism of political criminals. We cannot, for a moment, forget that Netanyahu himself is on trial, indicted on charges of corruption, and that he has proven himself willing to sacrifice the democratic institutions of the State of Israel to save his own skin.
At the New Israel Fund, we know that this is not the beginning, nor is the end of the fight for a better future for all. But the work that we do — to support what is now perhaps the strongest pillar of democracy in Israel, civil society — is so clearly needed now more than ever. We will never back down.