‘Will Bibi break Israel?’ Economist asks on cover of latest edition

British weekly argues Netanyahu-led government barreling toward constitutional crisis with judicial overhaul plans, calls for political realignment of moderate voters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on March 12, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on March 12, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

On the cover of its latest edition, the prestigious British weekly The Economist featured a portrait of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a lead editorial warning against the government’s far-reaching judicial overhaul plans.

“Will Bibi break Israel?” the headline reads, using Netanyahu’s nickname.

The editorial argues the Netanyahu government’s effort to restructure the judiciary threatens a constitutional crisis, with the Jewish state particularly vulnerable to internal discord.

“This should have been Israel’s moment,” the editorial says, citing the country’s relative security and successful economy. “Yet instead of celebrations, Israel faces a crisis. Judicial reforms proposed by the right-wing coalition government would undermine the rule of law and weaken Israeli democracy.”

The editorial says Netanyahu risks destroying his legacy and putting Israel at risk with the judicial changes, highlighting the mass protests against the overhaul, the dire warnings from security officials, business leaders and scholars, and the plan’s lack of support among the public. The struggle may lead to a showdown between the government and the Supreme Court, forcing the military and public to choose sides, it says.

The article claims Israel is “unusually vulnerable” to civil turmoil due to the tech-driven economy’s reliance on research and development spending, keeping talented citizens at home.

It says the country is also at risk due to its crucial partnership with the US, which is concerned about the judicial overhaul, and because hardline policies could stoke unrest in the West Bank and among Israeli Arabs.

“The legal reforms should be paused,” the editorial says, calling for a different, more broadly supported balance between the courts and the Knesset.

The article argues for a political realignment, noting most voters are moderates, but says the bloc has been split by Netanyahu’s “toxic” brand.

“His time has passed. To stop Bibi from breaking Israel, moderates must resist his power grab—and press for a government that puts the Middle East’s only successful liberal democracy on a less dangerous path,” it says.

Last month, the weekly published a cartoon ridiculing the overhaul that portrayed Netanyahu taking a bat to “judicial independence.” The newspaper also included an editorial headlined, “Israel’s proposed legal reforms are a dreadful answer to a real problem,” which further assailed the Netanyahu government’s plans.

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