“What we are seeing is a shift in the hawkish right from a political identity built on focusing on the ‘enemy outside’ — the Palestinians — to the ‘enemy inside’ — Israeli Arabs,” Halbertal said.
Netanyahu’s coalition has also attacked the vital independent institutions that underpin Israel’s democracy and are responsible for, among other things, protecting minority rights. That is, the lower court system, the media and, most of all, the Supreme Court, which Netanyahu and his allies want brought under the political control of the right, “precisely so they will not protect minority rights” with the vigor and scope that they have, Halbertal said.
At the same time, not only is this election a struggle about the future of Israel, he said, but also “about the future of Judaism in Israel. The Torah stands for the equality of all people and the notion that we are all created in God’s image. Israelis of all people need to respect minority rights because we, as Jews, know what it is to be a minority” — with and without rights. “This is a deep Jewish ethos,” Halbertal added, “and it is now being challenged from within Israel itself. But, when you have these visceral security threats in the street every day, it becomes much easier for these ugly ideologies to anchor themselves.”
This is going to have a profound effect on U.S.-Israel relations. But don’t take my word for it. On Oct. 1, Axios published a story quoting what sources said Senator Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who leads the Foreign Relations Committee, told Netanyahu during a trip to Israel in September. In the words of one source, the senator warned that if Netanyahu formed a government after the Nov. 1 elections that included right-wing extremists, it could “seriously erode bipartisan support in Washington.”
That is now about to happen.
I have reported from Israel for this newspaper for nearly 40 years, often traveling around with my dear friend Nahum Barnea, one of the most respected, sober, balanced, careful journalists in the country. To hear him say to me minutes ago on the phone that “we have a different kind of Israel now” tells me we are truly entering a dark tunnel.
Read More: Opinion | The Israel We Knew Is Gone