Two countries. Two democratic systems. The same chaos caused by those who put their theology above the will of the majority.
Israel maintains a parliamentary system with twelve parties now represented in the single-house Knesset. The present government under Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu rules because Bibi’s party—Likud—holds 32 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. That’s a minority of barely more than 75 percent. As in the past, this necessitated Bibi forming a coalition to achieve a majority. He did so with far-right parties.
Such parties (like those on the far left) tend to focus on a single issue. The Religious Zionists want to annex some or all of the West Bank, as well as weaken Israel’s court system. Shas, a religious party of chiefly Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews, wants to subject all Israelis to strict religious law. The Orthodox rabbinate already controls such life-cycle events as marriage and burial, and wants to limit who may claim the hereditary right to immigrate to Israel.
Most Israelis are secular or non-Orthodox. Many are not happy, as witnessed by recent anti-government protests in Tel Aviv. The largest drew 100,000 people. Why the pushback? Netanyahu gave the health and interior portfolios to Aryeh Deri of Shas. Deri is a convicted felon. The Supreme court recently ruled that Deri was unfit to serve. Netanyahu removed him—reluctantly.
Bibi handed the finance portfolio to anti-Arab, anti LGBTQ Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionists). Ithamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit—Jewish Power), convicted of supporting the terrorist Kach party, was named national security minister. He heads the police.
Right-wing parties supported Netanyahu to advance their issues, receive those ministerial portfolios, get (extort) more money from the government and exempt Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men from military service.
America elects its chief executive and Congress separately. A two-party system prevails. Yet it increasingly bears resemblance to Israel’s multi-party system. Not that all Republicans and all Democrats have always thought the same way. Following passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, southern Democrats, who’d long upheld segregation, bolted to the Republicans. The Republicans were split between the moderate Nelson Rockefeller wing and the far-right wing championed by Barry Goldwater.
Congress is giving the Knesset a run for its money in promoting chaos. Progressives may irk mainstream Democrats, but the Freedom Caucus has tied the GOP in knots.
To become Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy agreed to rules changes that weaken his power. He’s also placing election deniers on key committees—Jim Jordan as chair, Judiciary, and conspiracy theorist (Jewish space lasers) Marjorie Taylor Greene on Homeland Security. McCarthy also denied Democratic representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell continuing places on the Intelligence Committee. They participated in the impeachments of Donald Trump—Swalwell as an impeachment manager, Schiff a prosecution leader. Schiff also served on the select committee investigating January 6.
McCarthy cited their lack of integrity. (Take a moment to breathe.)
If I made the obvious statement about loving your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), I’d be spitting into the wind. The mood in both the Knesset and Congress reflects what the late historian Bernard Lewis once wrote about attitudes dominating the standoff between Israel and the Muslim World: “I’m right. You’re wrong. Now go to hell.”
Both democracies seem to be taking Lewis to heart.
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