Like most Israelis, I watched with a mix of alarm and admiration the videos of the march of several thousand anti-judicial reform protesters to Jerusalem on Saturday, waving their flags and singing camp songs. And even though some nasty reporters caught many of them parking their cars on the side of the road, marching a little, and driving off, it was still impressive. And by the time the line of thousands of flag-waving Israelis reached Jerusalem, it left an impression.
Channel 12 did the math: if you put together the (inflated count of) 160,000 marchers to Jerusalem, plus the few thousand in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere, you got a solid quarter million Israelis who are angry enough at the proposed bill to restrict the court’s reasonability clause to leave home and march.
I counted the votes to the 25th Knesset that were cast on November 1, 2022. The five parties comprising Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government received 2,304,964 votes. It comes to roughly 48% of the raw vote. Because of Israel’s vote threshold policy, and because some left-wing parties––I’m looking at you, Yair Lapid and Merav Michaeli––were too selfish to support their ideological ilk in sister parties, not to mention the anti-Zionist Arab parties, Netanyahu managed to turn this 48% lead into a 53.3% majority in the Knesset (also not counting, for the sake of this point, the rightwing votes and parties that also failed to pass the threshold – I’m looking at you Ayelet Shaked). A solid majority coalition destined to remain alive and kicking for four years unless it turns out that it’s made up of human beings, in which case they’re doomed.
In our culture, a common way of delivering messages is through pyrotechnics: big explosive bolts, fireworks, and flares. The magnitude of the special effect is combined in the audience’s mind with the message being delivered to boost the rate of acceptance. This is what we’re seeing this weekend in Israel: special effects. We are shown those magnificent marchers (who braved the awful heat and humidity) with their sea of blue and white flags, and our admiration (and, admittedly, fear) somehow combines with their message of resistance to the planned vote in the Knesset sometime on Monday.
But this figure (which is a little bloated, if you ask me) of a quarter million protesters, doesn’t even match the combined wasted votes of the three biggest parties that failed to get over the vote threshold. Meretz, Balad, and Habayit Hayehudi received 345,582 votes altogether. In other words, in the Israeli democracy, the one these protesters are out to save from the claws of the elected majority, their number is negligible.
Unless everything I know is wrong, and that has happened, we are going to be treated to an unprecedented circus in the Knesset over the next two days, the kind you don’t want your small children to watch. Both sides are not going to look their best in this one, unfortunately. And, come to think of it, when the left was in power, the right was using some of the same methods (though admittedly, not trying to devastate the country’s economy or destroy the IDF) although perhaps with a more modest budget. The incessant attacks, which included many of the elements being used today by the left, eventually led to the fall of the Lapid-Bennett government, because it was doomed from the start. They didn’t really have the numbers. This coalition has the numbers.
The coalition has only one mission this week – pass the reasonability bill. It’s do-or-die. It’s Waterloo and Dunkirk and the Golan Heights in 1973. If we lose this one, we might as well hand over the keys to the rightful owners of the country and beg for mercy.