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Israel And The West: The Crisis Is Real

Israel's judicial reforms by its far-right government have been met by widespread protests. Now the country risks breaking long-formed bonds with key allies in the West.

Photo of Macron Meeting With Netanyahu in Paris

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and French President Macron before a working dinner at the Presidential Elysee Palace in Paris, France.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — Which country in the world has just refused to receive Josep Borrell, Europe's top diplomat? Which country has a finance minister who travels to the United States and France without making any contact with the governments of these two countries?

That country is Israel, which is not used to being a near pariah in the Western world. It is true that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was received in Paris by French President Emmanuel Macron, and also in Rome by Italian Council President Giorgia Meloni, and is currently in Berlin to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

But if Israel's head of state, with decades of personal relationships with both European and American leaders behind him, is received, it might not always be to have his government's choices praised.

At the heart of the problem lingers the political crisis that was triggered by the coalition that Netanyahu has built with the far right in Israel: the latter is carrying out a judicial reform deemed undemocratic by a large part of Israeli society. The protests that have been going on for weeks have a real international impact.

It is a sign of real unease when it did not even take three months to see such a deterioration in relations.

It must be said that the new government has wasted no time in implementing its program of judicial reform, or attempting to impose the death penalty for terrorism, in a country that has only applied it once in its history against Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.

Photo of Isaac Herzog Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pose for a group photo with members of the new government in January

Jini/Xinhua via ZUMA Press

The Ukraine factor

The outrages of the far right make it difficult to turn a blind eye, even in countries that have always been reluctant to criticize Israel for historical reasons or to avoid fueling anti-Semitism.

Can this deterioration get worse? The answer lies in two factors: the first is the Israeli political crisis. Yesterday, a compromise proposal put forward by the President of the Hebrew State, Isaac Herzog, was rejected by the coalition parties, auguring instead an even more acute crisis.

Israel runs the risk of breaking this emotional bond that has its roots in the Shoah.

The second factor is the war in Ukraine, which has nothing to do with anything, except that it has resurrected a reproach in large parts of the world, of Western "double standards" depending on the crisis. In this case, strong provisions regarding the law when dealing with Russia, yet tolerating for decades the non-respect of UN resolutions regarding Palestinians.

Europeans and Americans have no desire to oppose Israel; their criticisms have always been sugar-coated with proclamations of friendship and loyalty.

But if Israel's government steps out of the democratic field, it will run the risk of breaking this emotional bond that has its roots in the Shoah — and is part of the foundational story of Israel.

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Photograph of Police and emergency services working at the site of a shooting in Jerusalem that saw two gunmen kill three people at a bus station in the Israeli capital.

Police and emergency services are working at the site of a shooting in Jerusalem that saw two gunmen kill three people at a bus station in the Israeli capital.

Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 ନମସ୍କାର*

Welcome to Thursday, where Hamas claims responsibility for a shooting that killed three people in Jerusalem just hours after Israel extended a ceasefire in Gaza, Henry Kissinger dies at age 100, and Singapore gets some company at the top of the world’s most expensive cities. Meanwhile, Turin-based daily La Stampa’s correspondent at the Israel-Gaza border describes conditions amid the fragile ceasefire.

[*Namaskār - Odia, India]

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