Benny Morris: Israel's Endangered Left

Roundup: Historians' Take

Benny Morris is a professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His most recent book is One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (Yale University Press, 2009).

According to many liberals and left wingers, Israel's democracy is under attack and under threat, with politicians currently promoting a series of laws that will curtail press freedom, left-wing NGO activities and the independence of the Supreme Court. One commentator, while agreeing that Israel is still a liberal democracy, defined what the right-wing coalition government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is doing as "nibbling away" at the foundations of Israeli democracy.

Meanwhile, last summer's mass protests calling for "social justice"— cheaper food and housing, higher wages and jobs for the unemployed—have petered out. The small tent encampments that sprang up in major towns now are cleared out, while most of the proposals of the Trachtenburg Committee, designed to alleviate some of the more prominent ills, are mired in the governmental bureaucracy and in Knesset committees. Nothing practical has yet resulted from the protests, partly because the Defense Ministry is steadfastly refusing to cut its budget—accounting for some 20 percent of state spending—in light of the growing Arab Islamist and Iranian threats to the country.

In an unprecedented public appearance last week, Dorit Beinish, the outgoing president of the Supreme Court, denounced the bills currently under deliberation in the Knesset and the cabinet as an incitement against the court and as jeopardizing Israel's democratic values....

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