Ehud Barak: Gov’t shows ‘signs of fascism’; mass ‘non-violent revolt’ may be needed

Referencing Netanyahu, former PM says those currently on criminal trial have joined forces with ‘racist messianics’ to ‘bring down democracy’ in Israel

File: Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a conference of the Gazit Institute in Tel Aviv, November 5, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
File: Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a conference of the Gazit Institute in Tel Aviv, November 5, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Friday accused the new government led by Benjamin Netanyahu of working to bring down Israeli democracy and said it bore “the signs of fascism.”

Speaking at a memorial ceremony for his successor as IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who died in 2012, Barak said that if the High Court of Justice proves unable to defend Israel and its democracy from the hard-right coalition, Israel’s citizens will have to stage “a non-violent revolt” to bring it down.

“As someone who knew Amnon [Lipkin-Shahak] well, I can surmise what he would say about this government — that it was sworn in legally but is clearly acting illegitimately,” said Barak, who defeated Netanyahu to become prime minister in 1999 and later served under Netanyahu as defense minister.

“This government is carrying out a coup in Israel before our eyes, with its racism, corruption, neutering of the justice system, politicization of the police and undermining of the chain of command in the IDF,” said Barak.

“Those seeking to extract themselves from criminal trials have joined forces with racist messianics who distort Judaism, Zionism and humanity,” he charged in an apparent reference to Netanyahu, who is on trial for graft offenses that he denies. “Together they are bringing down democracy.”

Barak spoke after President Isaac Herzog, at the same event, urged Israelis not to conclude that the country was doomed and to show more faith in the resilience of Israeli democracy.

President Isaac Herzog speaks at a memorial event for former IDF chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, December 30, 2022 (Video screenshot)

Barak was far more critical of the coalition, a grouping of Netanyahu’s Likud, two ultra-Orthodox parties and three far-right parties, all of which have declared plans to drastically curb the capacity of the High Court to serve as a brake on government decisions and Knesset legislation.

Non-binding coalition deals also provide for legislation that would enable discrimination against the LGBTQ community and other Israelis on grounds of “religious belief,” and for annexation of the West Bank without full rights for Palestinians.

“This government bears the signs of fascism,” charged Barak, but “there is a way back from the darkness.”

Benjamin Netanyahu holds his first cabinet meeting since returning as prime minister, hours after his coalition was sworn in, at the PM’s office in Jerusalem on December 29, 2022. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

“It is not clear how long this will take and what damage will be caused, but Israel will emerge from the tunnel alive and kicking,” he said.

“We are not Hungary or Poland yet,” he said, predicting that Israelis’ energy and insistence on freedoms and equality would bring down the government and “stain it with its turpitude for generations.”

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak attend a press conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem, November 21, 2012. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

If the High Court were unable to thwart it, the responsibility would pass to the people, he said, predicting a “non-violent revolt” by the citizenry. If necessary, “a million Israeli citizens will take to the streets and the government will fall.”

“If Amnon were alive, he would have marched with them, maybe at their head, and if he could, he would call on all of us to do the same,” Barak concluded.

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