This has not been seen in any of the democracies falling into dictatorship or threatening to do so. Not in Hungary, Poland or Donald Trump’s United States have such crowds taken to the streets to defend freedom.
On Saturday there were more than 150,000 people on the streets in Tel Aviv for the ninth week in a row. There were rallies or processions in 92 other cities and these demonstrations are completely diverse, sociologically, politically and generationally. Against this reform of the justice system, according to which there would no longer be a Supreme Court that could apply the principles of law against a parliamentary majority, against what would thus be a change of regime, there are not only the left, the students and their teachers. The army and the intelligence services, led by officers, are very widely represented. The right wing is also represented, not only right-wing intellectuals but also Likud political figures, such as Limor Livnat, former education minister of Benjamin Netanyahu.
She was at the microphone in Tel Aviv on Saturday and was not afraid to mock the vocabulary of her camp when she said: “Welcome to all the anarchists, welcome to all the terrorists, welcome to all the patriots!” More than 60% of Israelis now say they are opposed to this attack on the rule of law. This is much more than the left and centre-left combined and the strength of this mobilisation, proof of the vitality of Israeli democracy, should not leave the European Union and the United States indifferent.
We, Europeans and Americans, support Israel because it is a democracy and we must therefore help it not to become a “democrature”. We have the means to do so by expressing our concern and suspending our aid. If we remain silent, we would be accomplices to a man who has sought allies in the most fanatical fringes of the religious extreme right only to escape justice. By not acting, we would not only be betraying the only democratic state in the Middle East and a people who, before our very eyes, are fighting to safeguard their freedoms, but we would also be lending a hand to the strengthening of the enemies of freedom on the international scene.
The honour of the great democracies, as well as their own interests, demand that they throw all their weight behind Israeli democracy. This is all the more imperative since Israel’s security and durability are at stake because, if this slide towards dictatorship is not stopped, the country will divide like the twelve tribes of the Bible. Between Orthodox and traditionalists, secular and religious, left and right, Sephardic, “Russian” and Ashkenazi, it will fragment and unravel so badly that it will no longer be able to cope with the regional threats that will re-emerge as soon as its weakening becomes apparent.
Israel must be saved from its extreme right.