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The Reasonableness Clause - Governance, Power and Corruption

The translated speech by Admiral Ami Ayalon: Afula, July 8, 2023.

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." So spoke Lord Acton, back in the latter half of the 19th century.

Tel Aviv Protest Sign SOS
Photograph by Yair Palti Via Shatil Stock

For 27 weeks now, we have going out into the streets, and today we must discuss governance, power and corruption and what separates them: the reasonableness clause. Rulers aspire for power to facilitate their rule. It is human nature and inherent to government. In that regard, this awful government is nothing new.

The struggle between rulers who, in the name of governance, seek more power, and the "gatekeepers" whose job is to limit their power, dates back to the Bible, filling the books of Samuel and Kings.

Seventy-three years ago, on February 20, 1950, David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary: "The State of Israel should, first and foremost, safeguard two things on which, I believe, rest the existence and future of our country - the rule of law and democratic government."

"And I tell you here today: The struggle facing us is more important and difficult that any of the wars I took part in! The courage, perspicacity, determination, heroism and restraint demanded of each and every one of us are more important today than ever before!


on the rule of law, he said: "Only in a country where everyone - civilian, soldier, junior official, minister, lawmaker, judge and police officer - is subject to the law and acts in accordance with the law ... only in such a country is liberty guaranteed for the individual and the collective, for citizen and citizenry. In a country where the law is not supreme, there is no liberty." He ends by asserting: "Overseeing and preserving the law is the purview of the judge who depends on no person or ruler - only his conscience and cognizance."

This coming Tuesday, the government will bring to the Knesset its bill rescinding the reasonableness clause, voiding the court's authority to overturn decisions by a cabinet, a minister or other elected officials on the basis of unreasonableness - even if anyone with eyes in their head can see that there were ulterior motives behind such decisions or that they were skewed by lack of balance, by bias or extremism.

This means that, come Tuesday, the Knesset will declare that common sense has no place in interpretations of law - that common sense has been barred from Israeli jurisprudence.

Rescinding the reasonableness clause will be a rupture in the dam. It will lead to the collapse of democracy in Israel.

This is a red line that will force us to the lift the limitations we placed on ourselves when we embarked on this struggle 27 weeks ago.

Because the following morning, we will awake to a dark new day.

Today, therefore, we must imagine the era in which reasonableness ceases to exist - when decency becomes a bad word.

The day after, we will live in an era of government being guided by the core values of power, honor and money.

An era of shamelessness. Liars, thieves and perhaps even rapists and murderers will be able to be elected to the Knesset, to form a government, to become president. The laws of the new era will permit this.

Yigal Amir, the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, will be pardoned and, quite likely, run for the Knesset.

An era in which it will be permissible to wipe out and burn down Palestinian villages along with their residents, because the elected government deems it so. International law will halt at Israel's borders.

An era in which equality before the law - our core principle, in the olden era - will exist only as part of the collective memory of those who browsed David Ben-Gurion's diary.

An era in which the military knows of no "explicitly illegal order". After all, the axiom "illegality stabs the eye and outrages the heart if the eye is not blind and the heart is not callous or corrupt" came from the judges of the olden era.

A new era with new values. Wars are holy wars against enemies who blasphemed against the name of the Almighty! It is those naïve progressive, believer in a Judaism of "love thy neighbor as thyself," who are blind. It is the anarchists who go to war only in self-defense, who kill only those who come to kill us first, who have callous hearts.

In the new era, the IDF code of ethics will set out that children can be killed if they are bound to threaten us once they grow up - and, indeed, that in such circumstances they should be targeted. In the new era, IDF soldiers will be permitted to kill babies - indeed, it could be argued (to paraphrase page 207 of "The King's Doctrine") that is best and beneficial that they be killed now, as they are not destined to be part of an extant people and will end up being killed anyway in the new era. This is, after all, the doctrine of Rabbi Yitzhak Sharpira, among the doctrinal sages of Minister Smotrich, who is heading up the Israeli government's victory policy in Judea and Samaria!

In the new era there is no reasonableness nor shame. The Declaration of Independence is an archival relic, devoid of legal force. And the principles of the declaration are the principles of heretical anarchists, some of them Hebrew-speaking gentiles!

In the era where we are heading, the King is the kingdom. Lies are truth. Honesty is hypocricy. Compassion is bigotry. Liberty is tyranny.

If this awful government ratifies its laws, that is the era we will be entering.

It is therefore our duty today to go out into the streets and take every non-violent action necessary to stop the regime change turning Israel into an autocracy!

To those asking why we are here today, we respond:

We are here so that, when our children and grandchildren ask what we did when Israel fought for its democratic character, we will be able to look them in the eye and say: We were here and everywhere, the squares, the streets and the bridges, the halls of parliaments and courts. We did everything we could to defend our home!

In years past, I went to war for Israel, alongside my comrades. I fought, was wounded, and saw my friends fall in combat.

And I tell you here today: The struggle facing us is more important and difficult that any of the wars I took part in! The courage, perspicacity, determination, heroism and restraint demanded of each and every one of us are more important today than ever before!

This is a war over the identity, the security and the soul of Israel, as set out in the Declaration of Independence.

It is a war that we must win - and win we shall!


Ami Ayalon is an Israeli politician and a former member of the Knesset for the Labor Party. He was previously head of the Shin Bet, Israel's secret service, and commander-in-chief of the Navy.

Contributed by Ami Ayalon to USA for Israeli Democracy


April 28, 2024

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