Israel cements right-wing agenda through new laws

Israel cements right-wing agenda through new laws

Wrapping up its business before a long summer recess, the right-wing, religious coalition that rules Israel’s Parliament moved aggressively this week to push through its polarising agenda, piling up points at the expense of its already weakened foes.
On Monday, it empowered the Education Minister to bar some groups that criticise the Israeli occupation of the West Bank from speaking in public schools. On Tuesday, it accelerated what critics call the creeping annexation of the West Bank by cutting off Palestinians’ access to the Supreme Court in land disputes.
On Wednesday, it blocked single men and gay couples from having children through surrogacy.
The capstone, though, came on Thursday, with passage of a law granting the Jewish people an exclusive right to national self-determination.
“Is there a unifying principle to this madness?” asked Donniel Hartman, a rabbi who is the President of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, which promotes Jewish pluralism and democracy.
But to right-leaning Israeli Jews, the measures were part of a long-overdue restoration of the proper balance between Israel’s dual identities as a Jewish and a democratic state.
“There are people who it’s in their interest to make it sound extreme, but they’re overexaggerating,” said Sharren Haskel, 34, a member of Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party. “We are a right-wing government, we’re proud of it, and we’re bringing Israel to a better place.”
Critics in the opposition, and even some on the right, say the frenzy of lawmaking reeked of pre-election-season posturing by a coalition that has cemented its hold on power.
Israelis across the political spectrum cited support from the Trump administration as providing Mr. Netanyahu’s government with protective cover.
They also pointed out that the wave of nationalism and populism sweeping across Europe and the U.S. made their own country look like just another face in the crowd.
Still, the rightward legislative lurch was extraordinary for Israel.Yediot Ahronot , one of the country’s most widely read newspapers, on Friday summed up the week’s events with a drawing of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, showing a giant black flag flying overhead.
“Israel 2018: Coalition celebrating, equality being trampled,” a headline read. Nor were the divisive moves confined to the legislative chamber.
On Monday, the chairman of Brandeis University, Meyer Koplow, was interrogated by airport security on his way back to New York because, after attending a bridge-building session organised by the educational organisation Encounter on the West Bank, he had thrown a brochure articulating the Palestinian point of view into his checked luggage.
He later received an apology from the government.Sallai Meridor, who was Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. a decade ago, explained the week’s developments as a precursor to elections in November 2019.