Israel is being torn apart by the political battle over an independent judiciary. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing colleagues have their way, the courts will effectively serve at the will of the legislature, subject to being overruled and replaced by a one-vote majority.
The purpose of the "reforms," according to the critics, is to protect Netanyahu from the corruption charges he faces, and to clear the way for settlements free from judicial interference. Even the military has gotten involved in the protests, and the United States, while not openly taking a position, has called for "consensus" — which there isn't.
The question facing American Jews is straightforward: Is this any of our business or not?
For decades, we have argued that Israel's internal politics are for Israelis to decide, that it is not our place — as strongly as we sometimes may feel — to second-guess the internal politics of another country, no matter how closely we feel attached to that country.
Do we ask Israelis their opinion of whether our Supreme Court should be expanded by adding more justices, or whether the Senate should be able to filibuster judicial nominees? We do not. Is this the same?
The so-called reform that Netanyahu is pushing goes directly to Israel's values as a democracy. It is those values that we as Americans share with Israel, that are the common ground that is the basis of our close alliance. It is those values that make it our business. Supporting democracy around the world is very much our business.
Those of us who are old enough to remember the Holocaust don't take for granted Israel's special place in the world. A new generation is not so sure.
They do not see Israel as the special place that we do. They do not see support for Israel as the special commitment that we have. Netanyahu is playing with fire, and taking for granted that the world will allow him to do so because of the special place that Israel has occupied. It won't do.
There is a reason that prominent American Jews are concerned. There is a reason for the op-eds from prominent leaders like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
There is a reason that some 90 House Democrats have sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him "to use all diplomatic tools available to prevent Israel's current government from further damaging the nation's democratic institutions." There is a reason rabbis across the country are taking to the pulpits to sermonize about Israel and democracy.
They recognize that Israel is losing support, especially among young people and among progressives who cannot understand the security situation and do not see Israel as trying to resolve its Palestinian problems.
That is why they are speaking out. They are right. This is a dangerous moment for Israel. Its opponents will surely use this as a wedge issue. They will use it to attack the very values that bind us to Israel and that we hold dear.
Why? To protect Bibi? Is that what this is all about? That is certainly how it is playing out, and it can only hurt a country that we all love and cherish.
At the end of the day, obviously, it will be for Israel to decide. And we will, I hope, continue to stand by Israel whatever it decides.
But Israel faces great challenges, and cannot count on the automatic support and loyalty of Americans that it once enjoyed. For it to turn its back on its own values, and on the voices of concern it is hearing from its friends in the American Jewish community, would be a very troubling and dangerous mistake.
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.