Don't Try to "Save" Israeli Democracy from Its Voters

(JNS) Jonathan S. Tobin - There's no question that President Joe Biden and his foreign-policy team have strong opinions about who should be running the Jewish state that are echoed by most Democrats and the liberal mainstream media. The prospect of not only a victory for Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party, but the formation of a government with a prominent role for the Religious Zionist Party and its leaders, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, is enough to set the hair of the foreign-policy establishment on fire. But the rise of Smotrich and Ben Gvir is a natural consequence of the failure to adequately address the rise in Palestinian terrorism. It also reflects the collapse of credibility of those parties that championed outreach to the Palestinians over the course of the last two decades as the Oslo peace process proved to be a disaster. In contrast to the liberal bent of American Jewry, Israeli Jews are more likely to be proudly nationalist and have fewer illusions about the Palestinian desire for peace. They are sympathetic to leaders who are unashamed about their desire for Israel to be a Jewish state rather than a non-sectarian nation in which Jewish peoplehood and religion are downplayed. Smotrich and Ben Gvir have prospered because they have captured the spirit of the times. The claims that Smotrich and Ben Gvir would be a threat to democracy are partisan bunk. Neither their justified efforts to reform Israel's judiciary nor their demands for a more aggressive stance against terrorists would transform the country into a non-democratic entity or fundamentally change its character. The "defending democracy" rhetoric of those Americans inclined to meddle in Israeli politics is a smokescreen for something less admirable. Their main problem is that their side didn't win the country's free and fair democratic elections. Israel's people don't need to be saved from themselves. Their governments are supposed to represent the needs and concerns of their citizens, not the sensibilities of the country's foreign friends. If Americans truly support the Jewish state, they will accept the verdict of Israeli voters. If not, they should stop posing as defenders of democracy. The writer is editor-in-chief of JNS.

2022-11-03 00:00:00

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