Our hearts go out to our Israeli brothers and sisters who, in addition to living in an official state of war with the wider Arab world since before the country’s founding in 1948, are again dealing with death from terrorism. For the past several weeks, Palestinian gunmen have targeted passing Israeli motorists and pedestrians at junctions in Judea and Samaria, with lethal results.
The dead have included two haredi Orthodox servicemen, who were waiting at a bus stop, and a newborn baby who succumbed a few days after being delivered by emergency Caesarean section when his 30-weeks pregnant mother was shot and critically injured in one of the attacks. Anyone who doesn’t sympathize with the plight of these souls and their mourning families is simply cold-hearted.
So it’s completely understandable for parts of Israel’s targeted settler movement — which has, with the encouragement of the Israeli government, been building and living on the West Bank since 1967 — to have exploded in rage last week. Protesters took to the streets outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, screaming “death to the terrorists” and expressing anger at the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who they feel has not adequately responded to the security threat. Their demonstration has been joined by some rightwing politicians.
“We demand Abu Mazen’s head,” said Oren Hazan, a Knesset member from Netanyahu’s Likud party, referring to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. “For every dead soldier we will spill the blood of 1,000 terrorists.”
For a lawmaker who panders to his supporter base, such bellicosity, even if a bit over the top, is understandable. But it is an entirely different thing, and wholly unacceptable, for an Israeli senior Cabinet member, like Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party, to succumb to that extremist pandering and then to turn it into an attack on an Israeli democratic institution.
In what was seen as a direct attack on Israel’s judiciary, which has served as a check against some of the right-wing government’s legislative excesses, Bennett told protesters that in its fight against terrorists, the Jewish state had its “hands tied behind our back because of fake law and fake morality.” Those are Trumpian fighting words, which threaten to undermine the law abiding and orderly society that has become modern day Israel.
Courts don’t develop “fake laws;” they interpret and enforce the law. And in doing so, courts don’t adjudicate morality. Bennett’s effort to blame terrorism and loss of Israeli lives on an independent judiciary is dangerous and tremendously offensive, and needs to stop.
During the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin observed: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
That admonition remains true today. An independent judiciary is a hallmark of Western governance and a principled society. While we join in mourning the loss of Israel’s innocents, Bennett’s reckless blame of the judiciary for those deaths is simply irresponsible.