MK Mansor Abbas, chairman of the Raam, in the 2022 elections. “Without the High Court, the appetite of a large part of the right-wing MKs will be to limit the Arab representation in the Knesset” Photo: Gil Eliyahu

After all the bloodshed and the holocaust — is this the example you want to give to the world? The ultimate aim of the judicial coup

The Palestine Project
9 min readMar 14


It is widely believed that the main goal of the judicial coup is to guarantee Right-wing rule forever, by banning the Arab parties from being elected to the Knesset ■ All that is needed is to change the wording of a clause in the foundation Law of the Knesset and to demand a declaration of loyalty from the Arab voters, so that the Arab parties are out of the game ■ Without the High Court , it will be very easy to do

By Merav Arloseroff, The Marker *

With time it becomes clear that the judicial coup [in Israel] is driven by four completely different motives. The first three are corruption: that of Benjamin Netanyahu and Aryeh Deri, who seek to bend the legal system to avoid a conviction (Netanyahu) or to enable a convicted man to serve as a government minister (Deri).

Then there’s the corruption of Likud members, wishing to use their office for personal gain, winning contracts, tenders, and so forth. This is the main explanation for the push to turn judges into politicians’ puppets and use get the officially impartial public legal advisers to act at their beck and call.

The third corruption motive is Institutional corruption of the ultra-orthodox and the nationalist orthodox current who seek preferential treatment from the State, such as matched allocation to ultra-orthodox students, even though they already have a private unregulated education system, which does not teach core subjects. It is reasonable to assume that in the absence of any supervision or reporting, funds are embezzled. Treasurer Bezalel Smotrich has emulated the ultra-Orthodox approach, demanding additional funding for religious public schools, which already receive 25 per cent more than secular public schools. He’s also demanding complete autonomy for the stream, which would enable his cohorts to open small schools and deepen political education. To obtain these unfair benefits, they must abolish the High Court barrier which at the moment bars unequal budgetary allocations.

The fourth and most dangerous motivation is undermining democracy. This is shared by Smotrich, Itamar Ben Gvir, Yariv Levin, and possibly also Netanyahu, all of whom wish for an unrestrained government that can do anything, including turning the country into a Halachic state governed by Jewish religious law — Smtorich’s dream, while guaranteeing the Right remains in power forever.

In fact, a prevailing view is that the ultimate goal of the coup is to consolidate the Right’s ongoing dominance by blocking the candidature of Arab political parties. Leaders of the far Right don’t even bother to hide this. In September, Smotrich stated explicitly that the greatest threat is within, and therefore, “As a first step to tackling this, the current Arab parties should be outlawed, for they’re first to lead the hostile discourse against Israel, its right to exist, and its definition as an independent sovereign Jewish state”.

He added that, “In the next government, which, God willing, we will establish after the elections, we will change the mechanism for banning [political parties] and remove it from the hands of the High Court, in a way that will not allow the justices of the High Court to ignore the wording of the law and the intentions of the legislature repeatedly backing those who support terror and armed struggle against Israel. These primarily harm the Arab community, preventing their integration, and push them into a war with Israel. And if this escalates instead of remaining in the wishful thinking stage, we’ll be forced to take harsh military and civilian measures to defend ourselves, and this will send the Arab Israeli community back decades”.

“People don’t understand the implications of the legal reforms and its far-reaching implications in the new legal infrastructure”, said Mansour Abbas, leader of the United Arab List [Ra’am]. “Without the High Court of Justice, most of the Rightist MKs will seek to limit Arab representation in government and continue to place limits on civil rights as well: who can vote, who can be elected, who can organise and maintain their freedom of expression”.

The endgame of outlawing Arab parties is easily implemented. All you need to do is amend Section 7A of the Knesset Foundation Law, which stipulates that a party cannot participate in elections if it “denies the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish democratic state”, “incites to racism”, or “supports armed struggle against the State of Israel’. It’s sufficient to replace “denies the existence of a State of Israel as a Jewish State” with “supports the existence of Israel as a Jewish state”, which in effect, demands a declaration of loyalty on behalf of Arab voters, so that Arab parties are out of the game. Without the High Court of Justice, this will be easily done.

The legal state of play right now enables Israel to maintain its delicate balance as a Jewish but democratic state while comprising a large Arab minority of around 20 per cent. The legislation, the one that doesn’t negate Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, is accepted by most of the Arab parties, including Balad. There is a subtle distinction between accepting Israel as a state with a Jewish character and accepting it as a state with a Jewish majority. Then Arab parties that support making Israel a state of all its citizens, effectively be making it a better democracy such as in the United States or France, can declare that they don’t object to Israel as a Jewish state.

So each election we witness the same political charade played around this distinction, where the Central Election Committees outlaws the Arab parties, knowing full well that the High Court will overrule the move and let them stand, “and everyone goes home tired but happy”, as the Hebrew University’s Prof Alexander Yakobson defines this ritual and the way it serves the Right, in his and Prof Amnon Rubinstein’s book of Israel and the Family of Nations: The Jewish Nation-State and Human Rights. [English title.]

In effect this is an ideological argument about the character of the state; it comes under freedom of expression. In the same way as Arabs want Israel to be a State of all its Citizens, the ultra-Orthodox and Smotrich want it to be a Halachic state. Should we then outlaw the ultra-orthodox parties?

“In principle, the Arab parties don’t have a problem with the Jewish democratic bit’, said Prof Amal Jamal from the School of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. “It’s the daily practicality, the fact that the Jewish State is used to discriminate against them. This creates the dilemma. Arabs have plenty of evidence that Jewish and democratic don’t pair well, because they have been discriminated and disenfranchised. The burden of proof lies with the Jews, not the Arabs, to show they can coalesce the two well”.

“Either we’re equal citizens, or we’re not”

Except that beyond the legal arguments, there are countless reasons why Arab representation in the Knesset is good for Israel, Firstly, it is Israel’s best defence against any claims that it is no longer democratic because of the Occupation. “The more extreme and outspoken the Arab parliamentarians are in the Knesset”, argues Yakobson, “the stronger is Israel’s democratic image on the world stage. The moment we put a stop to this, we lose our democratic face. It will play right into the hands of the BDS movement.”

Yakobson notes that no democratic country has ever taken the right of representation away from a minority, let alone a 20 per cent minority. Other national democracies allow their minorities to dissent from the national character. “The Greek Constitution opens with the Holy Trinity, and yet the Communist Party is one of the biggest in government, and a Jewish party would never be prevented from running for office”.

Secondly, it is entirely unclear these reforms will do to Arab voting patterns. It is possible that Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas will say he has no problem supporting a Jewish state. He’s said words to that effect before. This will take the wind out of the sails of the move outlaw Arab parties. Yet both Prof Jamal and Prof Sammy Smooha, one of the leading scholars on the Arab community, believe that the Arab voter will see this as a betrayal and will punish Abbas. Anyway, Abbas tells The Marker that he has no such intentions. ‘There’s no point. I’ve said similar things before, and it hasn’t helped. The goal isn’t to strengthen the Jewish State, but to get us out of the running. This is a matter of principle. Either we are equal citizens or we’re not. You cannot tell a victim to accept the discrimination against them or face worse discrimination”.

A high cost to the economy, the nation, and national security

Thirdly, the presence of Arabs in government is seemingly the most important barrier holding Arab Jewish violence at bay. Despite the difficult impression of the events of May 2021, Yakobson notes that there is now relative peace between Arabs and Israelis. “There’s a nearly hundred-year-long conflict here, involving relatives of Arab citizens who remain refugees, and yet the Arab Israeli conflict has barely entered the Green Line [1949 borders]. There is a potential here for hatred, but it is kept at bay because of the freedom of speech, freedom to vote, and the high standard of living. The freedom to say terrible things about the state works to curb violence. This is a critical safety valve and closing it will play straight into the hands of terrorist organisations”. This is also why the shin bet/shabak was the first to object to the outlawing of Arab political parties.

Nearly all experts concur that restricting the political expression of Arabs could lead to violence. “A group comprising 20 per cent of the population finds itself disenfranchised”, says Mansour Abbas. “This will lead to desperation and frustration. I cannot say whether violence will follow, but the community will express its outrage. Just like in May 2021, when 70 years of neglect of Arabs in mixed cities erupted over an unrelated event, and suddenly everyone was asking, what happened here? When there’s systemic poverty and desperation, it can lead to such response”.

Prof Smooha is the only one to estimate that the risk of a violent civilian response from Israeli Arabs is low, because of the trauma of the Nakba, and because they’re basically doing okay.

Fourthly, undermining personal safety in Israel could escalate into insecurity in the region. Prof Jamal estimates that Netanyahu’s most important accomplishment, the Abraham Accords, might fail if Israel is perceived in the Arab world as persecuting its Arab citizens.

Fifthly, making Israel a leper state due to losing its democratic character, while undermining personal safety in the country due to heightened violence will surely take its toll on Israel’s economy and society. The damage we’re witnessing now borne of protests over the judicial coup only hint at what’s to come if a bloody civil war between its two populations breaks out in Israel.

And regarding Smotrich stating that any such violence would be harshly dealt with by the government, aside from the fact he is threatening with violence against Israeli citizens, it is also a bluff “If force could solve all our problems”, laughs Yakobson, “then the Middle East would be the most peaceful place on earth. We know you can’t overpower a hostile population. Israel has learned this in Lebanon, and the Russians that massacred Chechens paid a high price for it, and in the end had to grant Chechnya autonomy”. Another example is Kurdish terrorism in Turkey, which declined dramatically once president Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted the Kurdish party into the election process.

Sixthly and of greatest relevance right now is everyone is aware that getting Arabs out of government is intended to secure the rule of the Right’s forever, and so the Left would never agree. Millions of Israelis are predicted to object to such a move, as it undermines their principles of democracy and freedom to vote, which will again drag Israel into political, social, and economic decline. If Levin, Simcha Rothman, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir want to continue igniting the streets — in Tel Aviv and this time also in [Arab Town] Umm al-Fahm — this is the way to do it.

And finally, one must ask, why do we need it? ‘For the first time in 2,000 years”, says Mansour Abbas, ‘the Jewish people have established a state. After all the false accusations, the blood libels, the persecutions, the Holocaust, taking away the rights of Jews as citizens and as human beings in exile, after all this, is this the example the Jewish people want to give the world? Is this what we’ve been praying for? A state that persecutes all its citizens?”

Translated by Keren Rubinstein for the Middle East News Service (Sol Salbe)