The article argues that Netanyahu’s attacks on Israeli institutions like the judiciary and military have dangerously divided Israeli society, leaving the country unprepared to handle security threats like Hamas’ recent attacks. It draws parallels to the US, where Trump and far-right allies have undermined trust in institutions like the FBI. Applebaum cautions this contempt for institutions endangers security. As Netanyahu’s divisiveness enabled Hamas strikes, Trump’s potential return could weaken America’s ability to address threats. (Claude AI-assisted summary.)
The prime minister brought about a situation in which all the options are bad.
This summer I spent several days in Israel talking with people who were afraid for their country’s future. They were not, at that moment, focused on terrorism, Gaza, or Hamas. They feared something different: the emergence of an undemocratic Israel, a de facto autocracy. In January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his justice minister had announced a package of judicial “reforms” that, taken together, would have given their coalition government the power to alter Israeli legal institutions to their own political benefit. Their motives were mixed. Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, was eager to stay out of jail. Some of his coalition partners wanted courts to stop hampering their plans to create new Israeli settlements on the West Bank, others to maintain military exemptions for Orthodox religious communities. All of them were interested in doing whatever it would take to stay in power, without the hindrance of an independent judiciary.
In response, Israelis created a mass movement capable of organizing long marches and enormous weekly protests, every Saturday night, in cities and towns across the country. Unlike similar protest movements in other countries, this one did not peter out. Thanks to the financial and logistical support of the Israeli tech industry, the most dynamic economic sector in the country, as well as to organized teams of people coming from academia and the army reserves, the protests kept going for many months and successfully blocked some of the proposed legal changes…