A Mess at the Knesset

Power Plays and Brinkmanship Are Endangering Israel’s National Security

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, Jerusalem, October 23, 2017. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

Over the last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals involving his family and close associates. His legal troubles, however, are not merely his personal problem but a test of his country’s resilience.

In early January, Israeli investigators recommended bringing charges against Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. During this time, the government has fallen into disarray, as members of Netanyahu’s own coalition have seized upon his vulnerability, advancing aggressive agendas that cater primarily to their constituencies. This frantic power play has exposed the faults within Israel’s political system, particularly the way in which it accommodates reckless behaviors that serve narrow partisan goals rather than broad, national objectives. At a time when the country must unify, with the Middle East roiled in conflict and an emboldened Iran testing its regional power, Israel does not need yet another threat to its national security. What Israel needs is to better insulate policy from politics.


The Knesset begins its summer session next week, and with the real possibility of a snap election, legislators are eager to score political points. The Jewish Home party, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, is pushing for the passage of a bill that would limit the capacity of Israel’s Supreme Court to nullify laws it deems problematic. A second bill would discriminate against those who convert to Judaism in Israel through auspices other than officially sanctioned religious courts.

Both could have severe repercussions for Israel’s national security. Curbing the power of the Israeli Supreme Court could harm Israel’s stature before the International Criminal Court. In the past, when Israel-related allegations have been referred to the ICC, Israel invoked the principle of complementarity to assert its jurisdiction. This principle obliges the ICC to defer the prosecution of international crimes to national courts, unless they are “unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out proceedings.” Impinging on the Israeli Supreme Court’

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.