These reforms were in fact mandate that many parties stood on during the elections last year. The changes planned by the new government have been decried as an attack on democracy, with many influential voices on the left in Israel speaking out against them. For example, Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition said that if the government doesn’t stop, there will be no democracies left in the middle east, adding that this reform was an “extreme regime change”. This week is the 10th week of protests against the reform, with the Times of Israel claiming that over 300,000 people attended rallies across the country today. Even the president of Israel, Chaim Herzog, who is supposed to be neutral figure, has called for the government in no uncertain terms to abandon the quote “disastrous legislation”. Some Israeli Pilots have refused to show up for duties, the banks have said it will deter crucial foreign investment. In the US, democrat members of congress have sent a letter to Joe Biden urging him to “use all diplomatic tools at his disposal” to stop the Israeli government from carrying out its planned reform.
So here are the questions; What are these Judicial reforms all about? Why has it caused this enormous rift in Israeli society? Finally, why are these reforms important from a Biblical perspective?
Firstly in order to understand the reforms, we first must understand the role of the Supreme Court in a democracy. The Supreme court, in the context of a parliamentary system, is there to interpret and apply the laws that are acted by the Parliament and check their validity against the nation’s constitution.
So what are Israel’s legal reforms all about? There are 4 main components to the proposed Judicial reform:
- The reform would change how the supreme court justices are selected - giving sitting MKs more influence in their appointment. Incidentally, this would bring the system closer to the American way of choosing justices.
- The plan includes changing the law so that government ministers would be able to appoint their own legal advisors. These legal advisors would lose their power to make binding decisions and instead, only be able to issue advice.
- The Supreme court would be required to base their judgements on the law rather than on the on the so called “grounds of reasonability.
- Finally, the Override clause. This means the Knesset would be able to override Supreme Court decisions with a simple 61 MK majority. In many ways this clause is seen as the gun on the table in a sense. Without it, the Supreme court could technically strike down the new legislation the minute it left the Knesset. In fact, in the UK, the ultimate decision remains with Parliament not the judiciary. Parliamentary sovereignty, is a principle of the UK constitution
You may be thinking along with me that there is nothing particularly startling about these reforms. There is very little reason why any of these changes should result in the end of democracy in Israel as so many on the left have claimed. In fact, it strengthens the power given to the people, rather than to a self-elected group of judicial elites at the top of Israeli society. In many ways, the reforms seek to limit the supreme courts power to something that is closer to many other western democracies. So the question remains; Why have these reforms caused such a gigantic chasm in Israel society?
Caroline Glick, who is an American-born Israeli columnist, journalist and author has this to say;
“In Israel as in states throughout the Western world, the political Left is an ecosystem of power, and not merely a political camp. It starts with the parties of the center- and far-Left. But it encompasses far more powerful institutions and actors, as well. These include the universities, the vast majority of media organs, most of the entertainment industry, and much of the economic elite. The Left also comprises the senior ranks of the security establishment—represented most clearly by politically active retired generals.
The most powerful component of the Left's ecosystem in Israel is the legal fraternity, which is comprised of the Supreme Court, the attorney general, the state prosecution, and the legal advisors to the Knesset and the government ministries. Despite its control over vast power sources in Israeli society, the Left does not control the Israeli people themselves. A significant majority of Israelis define themselves as right-of-center (as per the recent election)”
The supreme court is the greatest stronghold of the political left in Israeli society. The last few decades have seen the rise of the right wing and particularly religious zionism in Israel. The ferocity of these protests, in my opinion, have very little to do with the actual legal detail of the reforms and more to do with the general direction of the country. The reforms could be seen as the final straw - The point at which the Left wing have snapped in Israel.
The War of the Dreams
It exposes a deep-rooted fault line in the nation. Two fundamentally different views of Zionsim. The political left, see Zionism as a secular movement, seeking to find Israel a place in the world and be just like the other nations around them. The right wing on the other hand want to emphasise the Jewish ethno-national nature of the state of Israel, with the religious Zionist camp taking this further to say that the state is a vehicle in God’s redemption process for his people.
There is a fundamental war of the dreams in Israel. And the right wing has been winning the war for decades. Over the past years, Religious Zionism has made a relentless rise to the top, now controlling many influential positions in the government. Some minsters themselves are now settlers from the west bank.
This is the true battle in Israel right now, not the judicial reforms per-se.
The Latter-day Religious Conflict
Why is this important as far as Bible Prophecy is concerned?
There are many passages in scripture that lead us to believe that the controversy of Zion at the time of the end will have strongly religious overtones. The very phrase, “the controversy of Zion” as written about in Isaiah 34:8 is clearly a religious conflict. This controversy has been played out down through time between God’s people and Babylon the Great, or the Roman Church as Revelation describes. The Beast of Europe, pictured in Revelation 17 is ridden by a woman, the “great whore”, a definitively religious symbol. When the nations come against Jerusalem, they we read in Joel 3:9, they say “prepare war”. The Hebrew for this is “sanctify war”. This sanctification is a religious idea. When Russia makes her grand move for the building up of her image empire, the religious aspect of the two feet of Eastern and Western Rome will be re-united. The Greek, or Eastern Orthodox Church along with the Roman Catholic church will work together to bring about the invasion of Israel. Finally, the Catalyst for the gathering of the nations to Armageddon is described in the six vial in Revelation 16. The froglike spirts, the teachings of humanism, are a major factor in bringing the nations against Israel.
Graeme Pearce has this to say:
“It is plain from Revelation 17-18 that the papal system is the religious part of Babylon the Great. We can imagine the Pope expressing great indignation at the Jewish developments in the land of Israel, and the probable desecration of “their” holy places.! So it is fitting that the papacy shall be the religious head of this great confederacy , which coming down upon the land, brings to a climax the controversy of Zion and receives a recompense at the hand of Christ.”
We expect to see a religious spirit in the land of Israel prior to the Gogian invasion and particularly on the mountains of Israel. The Judicial reforms have exposed the deep fault-line in Israeli society and demonstrated just how far the religious right wing have come. The state that began last century as a left wing socialist movement is morphing into something very different in front of our eyes. These are times of change. The night is far spent and the day is at hand - let us put off the works of darkness and walk as the children of the light.
This has been Daniel Blackburn joining you for this week’s edition of Bible in the News.