Current News



Is Israel's new government destroying democracy? Blinken surveys situation on Middle East trip

Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

As Israel in recent weeks put together its most right-wing, religiously conservative government in history, senior U.S. officials insisted on waiting and seeing just how radical things would get.

They emphasized "policies," not "personalities."

Now, nearly a month into a government led by returning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and populated by ultra-Orthodox politicians, it is already clear that a new bar is being set in controversial actions and extreme ideologies. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrives in Israel on Monday to take stock of the situation, but can he be effective given the Israeli government's momentum?

Many in and outside of Israel fear the democracy that the country long claimed to be — often billed the "only democracy in the Middle East" — is in danger of being badly eroded.

"The 75th anniversary of Israel's independence will be remembered as the year in which the country's democratic identity was dealt a fatal blow," the president of Israel's Supreme Court, Esther Hayut, said in an angst-ridden speech earlier this month in the Israeli city of Haifa.

Tens of thousands of Israelis — young, old and mostly secular — have poured into streets every weekend this month to protest the changes Netanyahu and his coalition are planning that opponents believe will curtail civil liberties.


Adding to the volatility of the moment, there has been a spasm of the deadliest violence in Israel and the West Bank in years. On Thursday, Israel carried out a raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin, killing nine Palestinian militants and civilians. Twenty-four hours later, a suspected Palestinian gunman shot and killed seven Israelis outside a synagogue in Jerusalem.

With tensions escalating, Blinken traveled to Cairo on Sunday and on Monday will hold what are expected to be thorny talks in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah. The trip had been planned before the recent violence.

Though Blinken is the most senior U.S. official to meet with the new Israeli government, he is one of several top officials who have attempted to sound out the incoming regime as the Biden administration seeks to de-escalate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and minimize the potentially damaging fallout from Netanyahu's new policies.

Blinken and other U.S. officials have been criticized in some quarters for being too circumspect in their approach to the new Israeli government.


swipe to next page

©2023 Los Angeles Times. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus