Despite Widespread Protest and Controversy, Israeli Democracy Endures

On Monday, the Knesset passed an amendment to Israel’s Basic Law stating that courts cannot countermand a ministerial decision or override a ministerial appointment on grounds of unreasonableness. The measure has set off intense protests in Israel, as well as condemnations and expressions of concern from Democratic politicians in the U.S. The editors of the New York Sun comment:

President Biden’s reaction—to lecture the Israeli leader that a measure of such magnitude shouldn’t be allowed to squeak by—is condescending nonsense, particularly from a president who gained passage of his own economic program by slim votes.

The most impressive thing about the drama unfolding in Israel, though, is Israel’s democracy itself. The protests have gone on, the press is at full tilt, and the scene in the Knesset was as raucous as could be.

In other words, democracy is functioning as it should. No mass arrests. No one is being “disappeared.” Democracy is often messy, and one could say the more turbulent, the more democratic. Yet, save for some isolated incidents, there has been little violence over this in Israel.

The truth is that what we’re seeing in Israel is what one would expect from any healthy democracy or any country of laws. And why not? This is a fight over laws that are being made or reformed. Those refusing to defend the county or those physicians who protest by betraying the Hippocratic oath will, if there are violations for civil disobedience, be held accountable by the laws of the country. They are unlikely to have a major impact on the outcome.

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Israeli democracy, Israeli Judicial Reform, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security