As Democrats, we are greatly alarmed by the potential harms to Israeli society by Israel’s new governing coalition, the most right-wing in its history.
The values of the California Democratic Party (CDP) are clear. The CDP’s 2022 Platform states its support for Israel’s future as a secure democratic Jewish state and provides Israelis and Palestinians the right to live with independence, sovereignty, and dignity within their own viable states free from persecution, terror, or incitement.
Consistent with our values and those of the Democratic Party, we continue to support the right of Israel to live securely as a Jewish and democratic state, as it has since 1948.
As we have seen in the rise of other right-wing nationalist governments in Hungary, Poland, Turkey and Italy, the recent elections in Israel have veered the country sharply to the right and away from the democratic principles espoused by its founders — principles that have placed the Jewish state among other western democratic nations.
When Donald Trump was elected President, millions of Americans mobilized to oppose his policies, but they did not advocate for the end of the United States. They mobilized because they loved their country. As American Jews, we are not citizens of Israel, but we recognize that Jewish identity remains intertwined with Israel’s existence.
Criticism of harmful Israeli policy that bears on its democratic character is appropriate as long as it does not embrace antisemitism or seek to delegitimize Israel’s existence. The way to support Israel and its democratic values is to stand with the more than 200,000 Israelis regularly coming out to protest the current government's attempts to undermine its democratic principles. Indeed, as Democrats and as Zionists, we express great alarm at the current government’s proposed policies and stand in solidarity with Israelis of all religions and orientations who seek to protect a democratic Israel.
We stand in solidarity with a democratic Israel because the current far-right government is advancing a proposal to eliminate independent judicial oversight, which would enable members of the government to refuse to comply with the law whenever they choose. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is standing trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust while leading a campaign to destroy the very judicial system responsible for his criminal prosecution, dismantling the separation of powers, eroding the independence of Israel's judges and giving politicians unfettered control.
To accomplish this requires extremist alliances. Enter Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and others, who seemingly have no qualms about dismantling Israeli democracy, disregarding the rights of the LGBTQ community, women, secular Israelis, Reform and Conservative Jews, and other minority groups. This extremist coalition government is ignoring the concerns of the millions in Israel who oppose this anti-democratic judicial overhaul, and members of this extremist coalition government have refused to slow the process and sit down and negotiate reforms that would be acceptable to the vast majority of the Israeli public.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for the Palestinian village of Huwara to be wiped out because a terrorist shot and killed Israelis at a settlement nearby. Shortly thereafter, a mob of settlers attacked and torched the town. Further, another member of the coalition government objected to the arrest of Israeli settlers who are connected with the attack. Ben-Gvir has been convicted of incitement to terrorism on multiple occasions. He is a follower of the late rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of Kahanism: a violent, extremist ideology that advocates for and has inspired acts of terror. He and his disciples were rightly banned from Israel's legislature in 1988 on the grounds that their ideology is “racist and undemocratic.” As recently as November 2022, Ben-Gvir attended a commemoration ceremony for Meir Kahane.
We stand in solidarity with a democratic Israel because Israel’s ruling coalition seems bent on imposing radical change to Israel’s political system. We Democrats in the United States have witnessed how a rightward shift of the Supreme Court has impacted the rights of immigrants, expanded Title 42, and reversed Roe v. Wade. A majority of our U.S. Supreme Court Justices have also signaled a readiness to challenge voting rights, election law, and affirmative action. The erosion of minority protections in our own country is deepening and, as noted by Israeli legal experts, the proposed dismantling of the checks and balances of an independent Israeli judiciary would have a similar effect. Democracy is not the power of a temporary, thin legislative majority to permanently —without recourse — oppress and remove the rights of its citizens. We cannot stand by quietly as democratic protections are eroded in both Israel and the United States.
We stand in solidarity because we are concerned for the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people, who desire their own viable, independent state living in peace next to Israel. We are particularly concerned with a guiding principle of the new coalition, which seeks to greenlight unilateral annexation, making a two-state solution virtually impossible and making the establishment of a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians equally impossible. Worse, the goals of this coalition government would normalize a unilateral form of Jewish hegemony from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, creating no options for consenting Palestinians to retain basic human rights of self-determination and taking away the option of their own state. The ruling coalition is in contravention of the national Democratic Party platform, which expressly supports a two-state solution and opposes unilateral actions by either party—whether it be Israelis imposing a single state via annexation or Palestinians attempting to force Israelis into a single-majority Palestinian state through an international campaign of delegitimization and a wildly overbroad interpretation of right of return laws.
As Democrats, we stand in solidarity with those seeking a democratic Israel by standing in opposition to the extreme proposals of Israel’s current coalition government, which are in stark contrast to our party platform and the values enshrined in Israel’s founding Declaration of Independence. Israelis are raising a clear and broad voice to oppose these proposed policies. These voices cannot be ignored.
We stand with the will of the Israeli people to find solutions that benefit all Israelis, protect democracy, and work for a sustainable peace.
● Democrats for Israel California, a council of Jewish Democratic clubs
● Progressive Zionists of California
● Democrats for Israel Los Angeles
● Jewish Democratic Club of Silicon Valley
● Jewish Democratic Club of Solano County