Israel finds itself at a crossroads amidst a deep divide within its community, brought about by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to curb the authority of the judicial branch (Supreme Court) in favour of the legislative branch, which is controlled by his government coalition (Likud + religious parties).
This move would elevate the Jewishness of the state at the expense of its democratic character and prioritise its religious character over its secular character.
Aside from Netanyahu and his coalition, most Israelis view the move as a political coup and an attempt to establish a regime based on dictatorship, fascism, and apartheid.
Protests in Central Tel Aviv pic.twitter.com/yveHG9ctgr— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) March 26, 2023
This could lead to a civil war, as seen in the widespread, ongoing, and loud protests that have erupted in Israeli cities over the past few weeks, with clashes breaking out between police forces and groups of Israeli religious and nationalist extremists.
Israeli politicians and citizens are increasingly using such terms as dictatorship, coup, apartheid and fascism to describe the current government — labels exclusively used by Palestinians in the past.
The situation in Israel under the current government of extremists, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Netanyahu himself, has alarmed Israel’s historical and strategic allies in the West — particularly the United States.
It is important to recognise that the conflict in Israel is an internal issue concerning the relationship between Jews in Israel and their perceptions of themselves and their interactions with the world. It has no direct connection to the Palestinians or Israel's relationship with its neighbouring countries — except for how it may impact its image or standing in the world.
Contradictions: Old and new
Israel has grappled with contradictions since its establishment in 1948. Divisions have emerged between Western and Eastern cultures, secular and religious beliefs, and left and right-wing political ideologies.
However, the most profound contradiction has been between secular and religious components of Israeli society. Religious parties base the establishment of Israel on Judaic beliefs — particularly the divine myth of the Promised Land.
By contrast, Zionism and the political-secular movement view Judaism a form of nationalism. As a result, Israel’s religious character has dominated society at the expense of secularism.