Legal overhaul could jeopardize Israel’s security and ties with US, think tank warns

A think tank warned on Monday that the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary could undermine democracy and put Israel on a collision course with the United States, potentially jeopardizing key strategic ties with its biggest ally.

In an 86-page report, the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv University also warned that the growing polarization in the country could seriously affect the country’s security.

The report noted that Israel has maintained a qualitative military advantage over its regional rivals, but expressed concern that this advantage could be eroded by political unrest.

Tamir Haiman, the former head of military intelligence, director of the INSS, said that the turmoil will not only endanger Israel’s relations with the Biden administration, which they have repeatedly expressed concern about, but also harm Israel’s security.

“In the geostrategic sphere, we have identified the special relationship with the US as the most important problem facing decision-makers – it is a very important anchor in the perception of Israel’s security, and any damage to it will directly affect Israel’s relations with other countries. arenas,” Heyman said while presenting the report to President Isaac Herzog.

“Deepening social polarization in Israel is expected to make it difficult to deal with external threats,” he said.

INSS Director Tamir Haiman (R) presents a report on Israel’s security to President Isaac Herzog at his residence in Jerusalem on January 23, 2023 (Koby Gideon/GPO)

According to INSS, Israel’s relations with the US will depend more on its obligations to protect democracy and prevent violations of the rights of minorities and Palestinians.

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Israel’s hard-line new government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “presents a clear far-right agenda that many segments of society see as extreme and a threat to Israel’s ethos as a Jewish and democratic state,” the report said.

The authors noted the deep polarization of society that resulted from four years of “political instability, provocation and mutual delegitimization.”

“These factors raise disturbing questions about it [the state’s] “very capable of protecting the foundations of democracy, the independence of the judiciary and law enforcement, the relationship between the state and religion, and the rights of the individual,” the report says, also warning of the real prospect of domestic violence.

Netanyahu and his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies are pushing for controversial changes to the judicial system and want to give lawmakers a way to overturn court rulings that strike down laws or government actions.

The plans have sparked public protests and weekly warnings from officials, industry leaders and others that the reforms could make Israel an international pariah.

The report also warned that damage to democratic rights could lead to unrest among the country’s Arab minority.

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“Possible damage to the democratic regime could lead to an intensification of internal tensions, such as in the Arab sector, so that it could project not only internally, but also externally, relations with the Palestinians and Israel’s foreign relations.” reported.

The INSS report was presented to Herzog, who said that while parts of the report were optimistic, he was deeply concerned by the findings.

“The issue of particular concern is the area that you call the “domestic arena” in the report. The security of the State of Israel is closely related to its national stability. We are in a period of crisis and particularly dangerous internal conflicts, and we must be able to face deep differences of opinion and not give up our beliefs,” said Herzog.

Tens of thousands of Israelis protest against planned government reforms in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

According to INSS, the two main challenges of the Jewish state in 2023 are the expansion of Iran’s nuclear programs and the unstable Palestinian arena. Both, but especially the latter, could become a source of friction between Jerusalem and Washington, the institute said.

“Despite the strong foundations of the special relationship between Israel and the United States, it may be tested in relation to the conflict with the Palestinians,” said the INSS, especially in light of the steps taken by Israel, which could be classified as changing the statue or violating human rights, it added.

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It also noted that a weakening of the Palestinian Authority could lead to an escalation of violence in the West Bank and Gaza, potentially leading to a wider conflict.

Regarding Iran, the report says, Tehran’s efforts to advance its nuclear program over the past year have practically turned it into a nuclear-threshold state. However, the Biden administration is currently more focused on China and Russia and is therefore unwilling to fully engage with Iran, which poses a credible threat, according to the INSS.

Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.

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