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Even Israel’s most ardent US supporters are sounding the alarm

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Published: 6 December 2022

Last updated: 5 March 2024

“I never thought that I would reach that point where I would say that my support of Israel is conditional”: Abe Foxman.

Israel’s most stalwart supporters within the US Jewish establishment have joined the chorus of concern about Benjamin Netanyahu’s emerging far-Right government.

Alan Dershowitz and Abraham Foxman, in the top tier of the most ardent and vocal defenders of Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state, each warned how the emerging threats to Israel’s democracy would be a bridge too far, even for them.

Foxman, the former director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Jerusalem Post that “If Israel ceases to be an open democracy, I won’t be able to support it.”

 He warned that impending changes to Israel’s judiciary and Law of Return would make it significantly difficult for him to garner support among Diaspora Jews for Israel, while being personally alienating.

Nearly three million people with Jewish roots – the overwhelming majority of them from the United States – could lose their right to immigrate to Israel.

The new coalition has committed to passing legislation stipulating that any conversion performed outside the existing Rabbinate-controlled, state-run program would not be recognised for citizenship purposes. At this stage, the legislation is only focused on Israeli conversions but that could change.

“I never thought that I would reach that point where I would say that my support of Israel is conditional. I’ve always said that [my support of Israel] is unconditional, but it’s conditional. I don’t think that it’s a horrific condition to say: ‘I love Israel and I want to love Israel as a Jewish and democratic state that respects pluralism,’” he added.


Foxman warned that Israel would be wise not to alienate American Jewry, which he deems one of Israel's most strategic allies.

Prominent lawyer and author of The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, published a video message on the Hebrew news site Ynet criticising the incoming coalition’s plans to constrain Israel’s top court.

“It would be a terrible, terrible mistake for an override to be permitted by the Knesset in Israel,” Dershowitz said. “It would be a terrible mistake to weaken the independence of the Supreme Court. It would be a terrible mistake for politicians to be able to dictate who is on the Supreme Court or how the Supreme Court decides cases.”

The incoming coalition has vowed to pass a so-called override clause, enabling the Knesset to re-legislate laws struck down by the High Court as undemocratic with a minimal 61-strong majority in the 120-seat parliament, and also to give the governing coalition of the day control over the panel that appoints justices.

Some allies of presumed incoming prime minister Netanyahu have also floated legislation that could end his ongoing trial on corruption charges.

“The independence of the Israeli Supreme Court is essential,” Dershowitz stressed, “not only to the preservation of Israeli democracy but to Israel’s attempt to present itself in an honest, truthful and positive way to the world.”

Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, one of the more Zionist rabbis in the Reform movement, also expressed grave concern over the incoming government.

“I’ve been at the very hub of the relationship between world Jewry and Israel, professionally, for 30 years. I have never been as anxious and as worried about that relationship as I am now. Never. Not even close. Nothing has come close,” he said.

“The voices that are emerging as the likely coalition partners will devastate the relationship, and it will damage the relationship, so that even if the government doesn’t serve its full term, it will take years to restore,” Hirsch said. “Because many of the positions espoused by the Religious Zionist Party, by folks from Otzma Yehudit and, needless to say, Noam, are antithetical to American Jews’ understanding of what Judaism is.

“There is no way that younger American Jews will feel what we want them to feel about Israel if Israel annexes the West Bank; if it overturns the independence of the judicial system; if it deports Israeli-Arabs who they consider disloyal to the state; if Israel is represented by people who are Kahanists that want to change the Law of Return and to disqualify non-Orthodox converts; if Israel will decide to abolish the grandfather clause; and if its leaders are deeply homophobic and deeply opposed to the LGBT community. Then we have a big problem.”

READ MORE
Israel’s most ardent US Jewish defenders sound alarm on Netanyahu’s emerging far-Right coalition (Haaretz)

Former ADL director says he won't support non-democratic Israel (Jerusalem Post)

‘Terrible mistake’: Dershowitz urges Netanyahu to spare Supreme Court, scrap ‘override’
The staunch Israel supporter, once referred to by PM-designate as “one of the world’s greatest lawyers,” says Israel’s Supreme Court is “the jewel of judiciaries around the world”

Reform rabbi: Netanyahu is 'last brick in the wall' for Israel-diaspora ties (Jerusalem Post)
Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch tells Post of potentially irreparable damage in the Israel-Diaspora relationship with young American Jews.

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Gantz calls on opposition parties to join ‘struggle for the character of the state’  (Times of Israel)
Concerned over potential damage to democracy, National Unity chair sets up “action forum” to fight incoming government’s plans: “We will not be silent”

Biden urged to threaten Israel weapons halt over far-Right concerns (The Guardian)
Pair urge US President to withdraw military support to Netanyahu’s coalition government if Palestinians are expelled or land annexed

US concerned over Netanyahu de facto annexing West Bank (Al-Monitor)
For Washington, the concessions Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is now offering his far-Right partners could quickly reignite tensions in the West Bank.

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Photo: Alan Dershowitz (left) and Abe Foxman (Wikipedia)

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