Jerusalem, Israel, Vienna, Austria (Weltexpress). Israel has always called itself – and rightly so – the only democracy, the only constitutional state in the Middle East. This exceptional status now appears to be in acute danger in view of the “judicial reform” ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his followers. Every day, hundreds of thousands of outraged citizens of a liberal-democratic disposition demonstrate on the streets of Israel against a development which, in their view, is drifting towards fascism. Hundreds of veterans of the domestic intelligence service Shin Bet also took to the streets. It is ironic that they were joined by members of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit, legendary since Entebbe: Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother “Yoni”, the heroic commander of this unit, died in that hostage rescue operation – and his glitter has undoubtedly rubbed off on his brother.
The fact that the Israeli Air Force’s elite squadron number 69, the backbone of Israel’s defense, which flies the high-tech F-15 Thunderbird fighter aircraft, had threatened to refuse to operate in protest at the threat to Israeli democracy, is an unprecedented challenge to Netanyahu’s patriotic claim to defend Israel’s existence and security by all means.
Israel’s domestic political scene has never been at peace since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. The incessant external threat from Arab states, the countless acts of terrorism, the permanent tectonic shifts in the ethnic and political composition of Israel, the influx of numerous Jews from Arab states and from Russia with little understanding of democracy and the protection of minorities, the growing influence of Orthodoxy have never allowed this state to settle down in its 75 years of existence. When I first visited Israel in 1968, a year after the Six-Day War, there was blind euphoria over that spectacular victory. What to do with the newly occupied territories and their Palestinian inhabitants was suppressed and the problem was recklessly underestimated. The provisional occupation turned into permanent domination. Jewish settlements, breeding grounds for religious-nationalist fanaticism, sprang up everywhere. The Palestinians, in turn, lacked a constructive leadership willing to make peace. Instead came intifada and the use of murderous explosive belts. In the meantime, meter-high protective walls cut through the biblical landscape, the army is cracking down ever harder on Palestinian extremists and letting settlers run amok. The situation in Israel is becoming increasingly worrying – the realization of that old dream of peace has become a distant prospect. But it is precisely now that the world should not refuse Israel support.