Netanyahu accuses NY Times of ‘demonizing Israel for decades’

Likud chief brushes off editorial warning of threats to Israeli democracy, says publication is ‘shamefully’ calling to undermine presumed incoming far-right, religious coalition

Pprime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu looks on after a speech at the Knesset during a session to elect the new speaker, in Jerusalem on December 13, 2022. (Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)
Pprime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu looks on after a speech at the Knesset during a session to elect the new speaker, in Jerusalem on December 13, 2022. (Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue ignoring “the ill-founded advice” of the New York Times after the paper published an editorial on Saturday warning that his presumed incoming hardline government represents a danger to Israel’s democracy.

The piece, titled “The Ideal of Democracy in a Jewish State Is in Jeopardy,” argued that while Netanyahu won the election fairly, the far-reaching power he is offering his far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners creates a real threat to democratic values.

In a short Twitter thread on Sunday, Netanyahu accused the publication of “burying the Holocaust for years on its back pages and demonizing Israel for decades,” and charged that it now “shamefully calls for undermining Israel’s elected incoming government.”

“While the NYT continues to delegitimize the one true democracy in the Middle East and America’s best ally in the region, I will continue to ignore its ill-founded advice and instead focus on building a stronger and more prosperous country, strengthening ties with America, expanding peace with our neighbors, and securing the future of the one and only Jewish state,” Netanyahu wrote.

In its editorial Saturday, the Times board said it has been a “strong supporter of Israel and a two-state solution” and would remain so, but Netanyahu’s incoming government was “a significant threat to the future of Israel — its direction, its security and even the idea of a Jewish homeland.”

It argued that the new government “marks a qualitative and alarming break with all the other governments in Israel’s 75-year history,” and rejected the assertion that the Netanyahu-led bloc’s 64-56 seat election victory gave it a “broad mandate to make concessions to ultrareligious and ultranationalist parties.”

Saying the incoming government’s positions “could make it militarily and politically impossible for a two-state solution to ever emerge,” the newspaper called on the Biden administration to “do everything it can to express its support for a society governed by equal rights and the rule of law in Israel.

“That would be an act of friendship, consistent with the deep bond between the two nations,” the NYT said.

The piece warned of Netanyahu’s partners, notably far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Otzma Yehudit chief Itamar Ben Gvir arrive for the swearing-in ceremony for the new Knesset, November 15, 2022. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

“The new cabinet [Netanyahu] is forming includes radical far-right parties that have called for, among other things, expanding and legalizing settlements in a way that would effectively render a Palestinian state in the West Bank impossible; changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, an action that risks provoking a new round of Arab-Israeli violence; and undermining the authority of the Israeli Supreme Court, thus freeing the Knesset, the Israeli legislature, to do whatever it wants, with little judicial restraint,” the paper warned.

All these moves “are troubling,” the editorial said, “and America’s leaders should say so.”

Netanyahu’s bloc — consisting of his Likud party, two ultra-Orthodox factions, and three far-right parties — has been pushing contentious legislation through the Knesset as a political pre-condition for finalizing the hardline government ahead of the Wednesday deadline to declare a coalition.

Legislation planned by the emerging coalition includes a High Court override clause that will curtail the judiciary by allowing the Knesset to re-legislate laws that are struck down by the High Court.

Members of the incoming coalition have vowed to pass the override clause, and also to give the governing coalition of the day control over the panel that selects justices.

The legislation, demanded by the Religious Zionism and United Torah Judaism parties as well as numerous Likud MKs, would likely allow the Knesset to re-legislate any such law or enact legislation with immunity from court review from the outset.

The proposed judicial changes — particularly the override clause — have been denounced by Netanyahu’s political rivals and prominent legal figures as destructive to Israel’s democratic system, leaving the parliamentary majority of the day with no brakes on its power.

Other bills in the pipeline will expand the authority of the national security minister, set to be Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben Gvir, over the police force, and another will make it harder for rebel MKs to peel off from their parliamentary factions without sanction.

The likely incoming coalition wants the bills to pass into law before the government is sworn in, with Netanyahu having until December 21 to declare he has cobbled together a coalition and a week after that to get the coalition approved by the Knesset.

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