Israel: A Model of True Democracy?

By Kerry and Sandra Teplinsky

In an era of eroding democracy around the world, might Israel soon prove to be one of the few genuine democracies left in the world?

It is hard to dispute that democracy as we’ve known it for hundreds of years is changing. Take as just one example, the life and death of California’s Proposition No. 8. In November 2008 voters in California passed an amendment to their state constitution, known as Prop 8, that limited marriage to a union between a man and a woman. When Prop 8 was judicially challenged by gay activists, the court in California initially upheld its validity. But in June 2013, the US Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative that had been approved by a majority of voters. Oddly, at the same time, the high court affirmed the lawfulness of the ballot initiative itself. It simply disagreed with the will of the electorate.

Weeks later on the other side of the planet, the Egyptian military unilaterally removed from office and imprisoned its first democratically elected president. The army then replaced him with its own martial government. Bloody protests and lethal violence followed, which persist to this day. Presently there is no clear direction for the future government of the largest Arab nation in the world. What was touted as the first fruits of Arab Spring is now withering under the weight of a military coup. Certainly former Egyptian President Morsi, an active member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was not good news for Israel or Judeo-Christianity. Nevertheless, does democracy automatically empower an army to overrule the express will of the people whenever it decides elected leaders don’t “get it right”?

Now consider the State of Israel. As a result of recent US pressure, Israelis and Palestinians are once more negotiating potential peace arrangements. Any final plan will most definitely require Israel to relinquish large swaths of its biblical and historical homeland, and succumb to other biting concessions. In anticipation of such a possibility, the government has proposed a law, presently under consideration by the Israeli Knesset, which would require a national referendum prior to ceding any land as part of a peace negotiation. Should this referendum law pass, as is expected, it will require the citizenry to approve any land swaps proposed as part of a peace treaty. The law would strip Prime Minister Netanyahu of the ability to sidestep the will of the populace, as was done by former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon in 2005. At that time PM Sharon unilaterally declared full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, jumping through loopholes in the political system to do so.

A poll released last week by Tel Aviv University revealed that over 60% of Israelis say they would oppose any peace deal requiring land swaps in Judea and Samaria, known as the West Bank. Most Israelis know that behind the scenes, Palestinian leaders (both Fatah and Hamas) still publicly state that any treaty with Israel would merely serve as a false peace or Islamist “hudna”. It would give Palestinians a giant foothold in the land and added resources with which to attack the Jewish state. Israelis suspect that Netanyahu is succumbing to US pressure to negotiate peace in exchange for American support of a future strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

If Israelis stand firm in opposition to a negotiated peace plan, then its government may soon find itself in a position similar to that of the US Supreme Court or Egyptian military. Israeli leaders may discover they have negotiated a peace plan that the majority of voters oppose. In that case, implementation of the treaty would be illegal based upon a law supported by that same government. Then we will see if Israel continues to function as the only true, albeit imperfect, democracy in the Middle East—and perhaps a model of one of the few democracies left in the world.

Pray with us for righteous government in the Jewish state, a discerning populace, and for just laws in Israel. Real democracy can be a precious blessing from God. But also pray with us for that even bigger blessing to come—theocracy under Messiah Yeshua’s future kingdom rule. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord (Matthew 23:9).