Tipping Point Quick Hits (07.20.23)
Chaos in Israel, Red Heifers Update, and the Dark Side of CBDCs
“Day of Disruption” in Israel as Thousands Protest
On Tuesday, protestors gathered throughout Israel, in dozens of locations including train stations and highways, in rallies against the planned judicial overhaul proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Despite scorching temperatures as part of the heat wave gripping Europe and the Middle East this week, the rallies drew tens of thousands of protestors. The protestors “briefly mobbed” the country’s stock exchange and blocked a half-dozen highways. Outside Israel’s largest labor union, protestors called for a general, nationwide strike. Army reservists blocked a military headquarters in Tel Aviv. The protests have been ongoing since the end of 2022, but heated up this week as legislators prepared to ratify Netanyahu’s judicial bills before the parliament goes on recess.
The reform drive—cast by opponents as curbing court independence and by Netanyahu as balancing branches of government—has set off a half-year-long constitutional crisis and contributed to U.S. concern about his hard-right coalition.
With the premier wielding a comfortable Knesset majority, opponents are hoping a fresh wave of protest can help scupper the legislation before final voting next week.
Some held anti-Netanyahu signs saying “dictatorship will kill the economy.” The proposed changes, which Netanyahu proposed in December right after taking office, would give lawmakers the ability to overturn high court decisions and pass laws that are not subject to legal review. Netanyahu claims the reforms are necessary to keep judges from interfering in political decisions, but his opponents say these reforms undermine the judiciary and represent a step away from democracy and toward authoritarian rule.
Netanyahu describes his plan as “not the end of democracy but rather the strengthening of democracy.”
The response to the proposals is already the longest-lasting protest movement in Israel’s history. Business leaders, banks and tech companies have begun to divest from Israel or are threatening to pull out of the country’s economy, and some leaders worry about civil war.
There’s also a national defense component.
In recent weeks, military reservists—including at least 180 senior fighter pilots—have joined the protest movement, threatening mass resignations and call-up refusals if the judicial plan goes through. Israeli fighter squadrons rely heavily on reserve pilots who volunteer several days a month to participate in combat or training missions, including strikes over Gaza and Syria.
Military leaders fear that this would significantly impact the capacity of the Israeli armed forces, particularly its Air Force, as well as tempt full-time soldiers to consider standing down, two senior defense officials said, speaking anonymously because of the volatility of the situation.
Future strikes on, for example, Iran’s nuclear facilities would likely involve reservists.
Netanyahu froze the proposed legislation earlier this year in response to the protests, but the Knesset has taken it up again this summer. But he continues to be in the grip of the extreme right-wing political coalition that helped him return to power. Here’s what I wrote earlier this year:
The United States has been Israel’s strongest supporter over the past decades for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons is our shared values. If democracy weakens in Israel, then Israel’s ties with the United States will weaken. There are politicians who are committed to supporting Israel because of the history of our faith and our commitment to Judeo-Christian values. But there are also politicians whose commitment to Israel is based on the values of democracy.
If Israel transitions on democracy, support in the United States will decline.
And the national security risk can’t be understated. Terrorists are watching the domestic turmoil. Israel’s enemies could be planning strikes at a time when its military may be facing uncertainty. Plans to strike Iran could be put on hold.
All of this unrest could have prophetic implications, and I’m paying close attention.
Red Heifers Move to New Home in Israel
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