With Israel in Turmoil, Enemies Seem Set To Pounce

Seeking unity, President Herzog floats a proposal to overhaul relations between the judiciary and the Knesset. Prime Minister Netanyahu is not impressed.

AP/Ohad Zwigenberg
Prime Minister Netanyahu on the floor the Knesset, as his coalition presses ahead with a contentious plan to overhaul the country's judicial system, March 13, 2023. AP/Ohad Zwigenberg

President Herzog is attempting to unite Israel even as its enemies, seemingly encouraged by the country’s internal turmoil, plan a new wave of terrorism. 

Mr. Herzog presented on Wednesday a plan for a “golden path” between supporters and opponents of legislation that for weeks has ignited rage and a protest movement against the ruling coalition’s plan to overhaul relations between the judiciary and the Knesset. 

Following weeks of increasingly raucous demonstrations against the initiative pushed by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s supporters, opposition members seemed to support the president — especially his call to replace the legislation with his own “people’s plan.”

“We must approach the president’s outline with respect for the status, the seriousness with which it was written and the values that underlie it,” a former prime minister, Yair Lapid, tweeted. 

Mr. Netanyahu, who delayed a trip to Germany for a few hours to hear the president, made his disappointment clear to reporters at the Tel Aviv airport. “Any attempt to reach an agreement is appropriate and therefore the representatives of the coalition have spoken with the president time and time again,” he said. 

“Unfortunately,” Mr. Netanyahu added, “the things the president presented were not agreed upon by the coalition and many sections of what he presented perpetuate the existing situation and do not restore the balance between the authorities. This is the sad truth.”

Mr. Herzog’s prime-time address followed a dramatic announcement by the Israeli Defense Force that exposed what could be a major terrorist attack in the works, likely inspired by Hezbollah. At the same time, the president posted the five-page judiciary plan on the web. 

Although likely to be opposed by politicians of both sides, Mr. Herzog said, a compromise is vital. “What the IDF has exposed earlier today shows that our enemies are noticing that in recent weeks we have been tearing ourselves apart,” he said. “Anyone who thinks a fraternal war is a line we won’t cross — including deadly clashes — is ignoring reality.”

Earlier, an IDF announcement ended a couple of days of fear and speculation among residents living near the Lebanese border who have noticed a serious uptick in military activity in the north of the country, even as the army banned all press reporting on the underlying event.

“An explosive device was detonated adjacent to the Megiddo Junction on Monday, severely injuring an Israeli civilian,” the IDF finally announced Wednesday. A terrorist “armed with an explosive belt and multiple weapons” was caught and killed, the statement said. 

The device in the attack was more sophisticated and larger than similar terrorism tools used by Hamas and other Palestinian organizations. The IDF acknowledged that the terrorist that carried it infiltrated Israel from Lebanon, a rare such crossing. “The possible involvement of the Hezbollah terrorist army is under review,” the IDF statement said.

The site of the Monday attack, Megiddo, lent its name to a fateful word: Armageddon. Yet, the incident indicates that Hezbollah chief, Hasan Nasrallah, no longer believes  direct attacks against Israel would end his world.

“Even if the terrorist wasn’t one of Hezbollah’s members, Hezbollah must have known about the infiltration into Israel from the territory it controls,” the founder of Alma, a northern Israel-based think tank, Sarit Zehavi, tells the Sun. 

Mr. Nasrallah often boasts in his speeches that the “Zionist entity” exists on a “cobweb” foundation and that its demise is near. Regardless, he has long shied from direct confrontation that could lead to all-out war. No longer. “For a while now, Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons have been pushing for confrontation,” Ms. Zehavi said, adding that recent events in Israel further incentivize the terrorists for action. 

“The current internal Israeli crisis could lead Nasrallah to misread the real power balance, and assume that Israel would fail to unite if faced with an external threat,” two scholars at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, Orna Mizrahi and Yoram Schweitzer, wrote Wednesday. 

Weekly protest against the Israeli ruling coalition’s proposal has grown into an almost daily occurrence. In addition to blocking roads and even the national Tel Aviv airport, some members of the armed forces, including Air Force reservists, have raised doubts about serving the government. 

As the crisis threatens the ability of Israel to defend itself, some supporters and opponents of the legislation started to quietly negotiate a compromise under the auspices of Mr. Herzog.    

The first indication that such negotiations begin to bear fruit was when an Israeli think tank that served as the intellectual backbone of the legislation, Kohelet, issued a statement Tuesday about the need to “achieve a broad consensus” before the legislation could be enacted. 

After consulting with opponents of the legislation, “we discovered in relation to many issues the gaps can be bridged,” Kohelet said in its statement. Yet, after Mr. Herzog’s proposal became public, a George Mason law professor who advises Kohelet, Eugene Kontorovich, expressed his disappointment. 

“Herzog’s plan continues to give judges decisive role in the selection of their colleagues and successors,” Mr. Kontorovich tweeted. “There is no good reason for judges to pick their colleagues, as they have obvious interest in picking yes-men and intellectual lookalikes.”

The New York Sun

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