It would not be considered a surprise to many that the state of Israel, also known as the occupied territories of Palestine, displays several characteristics of a government threatened by factors of corruption. While particularly focusing on recent years and highlights, the erosion of Israel’s democracy has been the effect of the enforcement of controversial limitations and punishments brought into effect by authority figures. In addition, Former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, displays several characteristics related to those of demagoguery, while maintaining control by maintaining legitimacy and fairness within elections that take place within the Israeli population. Jennifer Mercieca states that you can identify a demagogue, or rather a dangerous one, as a powerful political figure who is unable to “…allow themselves to be held accountable for their words and actions” (Mercieca 2019). This feature can be seen unfolding within the Israeli government, as systems that are in place to maintain accountability among leaders are collapsing. Foreign policy researchers have been able to observe a decrease in checks and balances being enforced within the government, as influence from several of Israel’s right-wing cabinet ministers has led to a push to reduce these measures of accountability. This event as well as the general increase in efforts to undermine systems of protection for minorities and other citizens are a clear example of a democracy affected by polarization and demagoguery. Israeli leaders have also established limitations on freedoms of press and criticism, particularly for efforts in regards to Palestinian rights or campaigns. In June of 2021, Prime Minister Netanyahu was replaced by politicians he once considered loyal to his campaign, Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, and Gideon Sa’ar. While his ouster was successful, many observed that Netanyahu, who was previously persecuted and charged with bribery, fraud, and breaches of power, refused to condemn his own actions, nor take accountability. His resignation of power left Israel in an extremely polarized and violent state, reflective of the decrease in stability and national trust caused by his abuses of power. A Jerusalem-based columnist reflects on his methods of control, explaining that Netanyahu’s political power was maintained by keeping peoples’s anger alive. A demagogue can often be defined and identified by the use of weaponization within communication in order to obtain control. Several modern examples of this can be identified internationally, including features observed in the 2020 election events in the United States. Netanyahu often used charged language, as well as violently determined connotations to maintain anger and remain within the public eye, furthering polarization, and thus, securing loyalty from right-wing citizens and Israeli nationalists. These features, while able to indicate signs of corruption within a government, are also very telling of a large threat to democratic stability. Netanyahu’s loyalists continued to make impacts in ways that negatively affected and excluded minorities from the democratic process, a clear indicator of erosion within this system. Netanyahu has been known to publicly praise leaders of highly authoritarian-aligned systems, as well as adopting several tactics observed in these leaders. An example of this is his attempt to limit the freedoms of media and press among the public, while reinforcing beneficial misinformation and punishing critics of his actions and plans. However, even considering the several instances of corruption or demagoguery, Netanyahu was able to maintain control and had several loyal communities to back him up through periods of attempting to hold him accountable within the government. While his impact has greatly caused the decrease in public trust and democratic security in his nation, Israel has been able to successfully uphold several cases of free and fair elections. He has maintained power for fifteen years, and as a result of the accessibility of elections by the people, there is renewed space for change within the government, as displayed in June of 2021 with the departure of Benjamin Netanyahu from his authority position. However, laws are still in place that reinforce Israel-nationalist ideals, such as a lack of protective rights for minorities within Israel and a large number of policies in place that greatly encourage polarization regarding Israel’s relationship with Palestinian figures and peoples. A democracy, by definition, must be reflective of the views of the population and offer protection to the rights of that population. The lack of accountability witnessed regarding the two states’ conflict as well as attempts to undermine judicial processes are perfect examples of how a leader could threaten the rights of their citizens. In addition, the increased polarization greatly caused by the former Prime Minister have largely international implications and affects several countries involved in alliances with Israel from either a political or economic point, as many states are compelled to get involved in violent events or maintain corruption present in current leaders. Netanyahu’s departure, while implicative of a new beginning, lacks the promise of elevation into a further democratic nation. Many processes have remained the same and polarization between those in support of Israel or Palestine has not only continued, but escalated. The Israeli leadership figures and demagoguery present within the government greatly reinforces ideals that threaten the sanctity of democracy and are reflective of a corrupt system.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.