NEW YORK – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the process of assembling a new government of his extremist allies, forming one of the most right-wing coalitions in Israel’s history. T’ruah, a rabbinic human rights organization that represents over 2,300 rabbis and cantors and their communities in North America, spoke out against the danger this new government poses to Israeli democracy, and the safety of Jews and Palestinians.
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah, issued the following statement:
“This is not business as usual. Israel’s new government is a stark display of rising facism and racism. Netanyahu’s coalition government gives power to violent, right-wing extremists who seek to incite political violence and who will put lives at risk. The rise of figures like Itamar Ben Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, and the Jewish Power party show the real danger of extremism and faith becoming entangled. Perhaps most dangerous to Israeli democracy, this coalition has pushed forward an ‘override clause,’ legislation that would allow the Knesset to overrule High Court rulings. Passage of such a bill would undermine an essential check on power.
“From the top down, Netanyahu and his new coalition endanger both Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu has aligned himself with anti-democratic right-wing leaders in the United States, facilitated the ongoing de facto annexation of the West Bank, and is currently under investigation for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Members of this new government have openly called for the deportation of Palestinian citizens of Israel, promoted bigotry against LGBTQ people, and called for violence against Palestinians and Israeli leftists.
“Members like Itamar Ben Gvir and Betzalel Smotrich are religious extremists who seek to dismantle systems of checks and balances and fuel violence and instability. With a person convicted multiple times for violence and incitement in charge of the police force, an extremist settler in charge of construction in the occupied Palestinian territories, and a self-described ‘proud homophobe’ charged with a Jewish identity portfolio, Israel’s democracy and the basic human rights of Palestinians and Jews are more at risk than ever.
“The stated intention by some members of the coalition to wage an all-out attack on human rights and civil society organizations creates an even greater threat, as transparency and a strong civil society are necessary to a functioning democracy. Israel deserves leaders who value justice, safety, and peace. Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial and his chosen political allies are a disturbing warning of what is to come for Israeli democracy if they are not held accountable.
“The U.S. government can mitigate the potentially disastrous consequences of the incoming Israeli government by upholding its stated commitment to a two-state solution, as well as its position that West Bank settlements are not legal and not part of Israel. The Biden administration must back up this position by stating clearly that it rejects the Trump plan encouraging unilateral annexation, by affirming that parts of Jerusalem will someday form the Palestinian capital, and by ensuring increased oversight as a condition for the military and security assistance it gives Israel (as it would for any other country).
“The prophet Isaiah enjoins us to ‘cry with a full throat without restraint; Raise your voice like a shofar!’ (Isaiah 58:1) We thank fellow American Jewish institutions that have spoken out against this slotted coalition, and call on the organizations that have been silent, who have chosen to reserve judgment, or who have limited their condemnations to only the most extremist coalition members to fully live out their values by speaking out against the comprehensive attack on democracy and human rights that this coalition represents.
“As Jewish leaders, we have a moral obligation to unite in the face of extremism and speak out against those who use our shared faith to justify harmful actions and policies. T’ruah will continue to denounce any politician or policy that puts human dignity and the teachings of our faith at risk. Conversely, we will raise up those politicians and policies that embody the courage called for in Isaiah’s refrain.”
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights mobilizes a network of more than 2,300 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.