April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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A recent visit to Israel revealed matters different from previous visits, and similar to what is happening in the United States.

Today’s Israel, like the U.S., is a deeply divided nation. Israel’s democratic system is based on a unicameral parliament, the Knesset, the members of which are chosen in an election based on nationwide proportional representation. Because no one single political party has ever in the country’s history won a majority of 61 out of 120 Knesset seats, multiple parties—including small ones—need to group together in a coalition to form the government.

It is often necessary to make significant compromises among the parties that make up the governing coalition. That is what is happening now with Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who is by nature a center-right moderate, and who had to join forces with some parties considerably to the right of him. These include individuals who unfortunately have histories of racism and homophobia—bigotries that Netanyahu has always opposed and promises to continue to oppose in the new government he is working to form under himself as prime minister. These partners also include potential ministers who want to curtail the powers of Israel’s Supreme Court, which many believe favors the left.

Israel, however, presents a very different face through the persona of its President Isaac Herzog. In Israel, the presidency is a non-partisan ceremonial role, without executive powers. Herzog is a career politician who in 2015 ran unsuccessfully for prime minister as leader of the left-wing Labor Party. Today, as president, he represents all the citizens of Israel. His face is that of a centrist patriot with a long history of supporting human rights for all. Although the Israeli president’s role and power is limited, just as the role of king or queen is limited in Great Britain and other parliamentary monarchies, he can do a great deal to represent the best of Israel, especially as it approaches its 75th birthday in late April 2023.

Herzog can remind the world that no country in history has contributed more to the world—medically, scientifically, technologically, agriculturally, culturally, in human rights and in other ways—during its first 75 years of existence than Israel. This, despite having to devote so much of its resources to defending itself against genocidal threats from Iran and other nations and terror groups committed to its destruction. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and other Arab nations, and is seeking peace and normalization with still others. It has revived an ancient language, turned malaria-infested swamps into productive agricultural land, brought its great medical and agricultural discoveries to other nations, and provided refuge to millions of Jews and others facing persecution.

Netanyahu, who was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has played an extremely positive role in many of these developments, as well as in creating a peace that few thought possible with four Arab countries—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco—after decades of hostility, all while countering deadly threats from Iran and leading Israel’s economy away from socialism into the high-tech wonder that it is.

There is much for Israel to be proud of, even as it faces challenges both from without and within. No nation is subjected to more unfounded and disproportionate condemnation—from the United Nations, from international tribunals, from NGOs, from campus radicals, from many in the media—than the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Together, Netanyahu and Herzog present what is best about Israel as well as complications that can arise in any democracy. I am proud to be their friend and a defender of the great country they represent—Israel.


Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard Law School, and the author most recently of “The Price of Principle: Why Integrity Is Worth The Consequences.” He is the Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute, and is also the host of “The Dershow” podcast.

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