2023 Israel Democracy Conference: Zulat President Zehava Galon’s Full Speech

Distinguished guest,

Last Monday I emerged from the Knesset building after a discussion in the Constitution Committee. With me were dozens of former MKs, from Labor and Likud, Kadima and Meretz, Mafdal and Shinuy who enlisted in Zulat’s Emergency Call-Up project to fight the regime revolution. And when we came out together into the Jerusalem sun, it was like crossing from darkness into light. Outside were hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who had come to Jerusalem to protest.

The cooperation between all of us, Right, Center, and Left, is the greatest hope versus this dark government. A new Israeli majority has solidified, one that is waking up from its slumber and is explicitly declaring that “Israel will not be a dictatorship.” This majority is active and enthusiastic, it signs petitions and donates money to the protest. Still and all, in order to be fully democratic, this majority needs to open its arms to the Arab public and call on it to join the front battling for Israel’s image.

This is a struggle against a paranoid, corrupt, and hatred-mongering coalition, which has turned itself into the political apparatus of “the angel of destruction,” as the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir called Netanyahu. For years Netanyahu has been poisoning Israeli politics in order to ensure his political survival, cultivating a gang of midgets in order to loom tall over them and use them to promote a regime revolution.

And to the members of the opposition in the Knesset I say: The protesters will not accept any compromise whatsoever! They will not agree to let even one letter drop from the Declaration of Independence, or to any capitulation deal with the devil, neither to a semi-dictatorship nor to a “slice by slice” sultanate.

If there’s one thing worse than no compromise, that’s a rotten compromise. Don’t let the destroyers of democracy lure you with smiles! They will hug you in the Knesset plenum, and caress you all the way to the abyss!

And don’t get me wrong: There is room for dialogue, and there is also room for compromise. But there will be no compromise on democracy, because when a country ceases to be a democracy there is no safe way back.

We are already compromising: We are compromising over the fact that the government is headed by a person who is on trial on charges of bribery. I hereby call upon Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara to declare the prime minister incapacitated to fulfill his role. Not only do reasonableness standards call for it, but they compel it!

In mid-2022 Zulat published Pseudo Democracy, a comprehensive and extensive report written by attorney Eitay Mack, which revealed a frightening picture: from 1996 to 2021, step by step, Netanyahu degraded the country down the democratic index using legislation,  downgrading Basic Laws, slashing the Knesset’s authority and its ability to limit the power of the government and the person heading it, passing a biennial budget, expanding the use of the Economic Arrangements Law, enacting the Boycott Law, the Nakba Law, the Flag Law, and the Nationality Law, violating freedom of the press, attempting to prevent the political participation of Arab citizens in the elections, and banning civil society organizations from schools.

Netanyahu has turned Israel from a democracy into a borderline authoritarian state. This has been his modus operandi for almost 30 years. The conclusion is clear: Those who failed to heed our warnings during Netanyahu’s first and second terms ended up with a quasi-authoritarian state. Those who will let him get away with his current scheme will get a dictatorship in Netanyahu’s third term. That’s why I tell you from this podium: We will not compromise on even one inch of democracy!

Why? Because we know that all these factors cannot be detached from each other: The attitude toward the Palestinians in the territories, the incitement against Israel’s Arab citizens, the onslaught on the democratic institutions within the State of Israel. Everything is connected, and everything is aimed at following the regime revolution with yet another one: The apartheid revolution. The fact is that the occupation has probably been the biggest project of most Israeli governments in the last 56 years, carried out to this day in dubious deceit and probable thievery, under cover of darkness and the ruler’s auspices, as Meir Ariel’s song goes.

To create and entrench an apartheid regime it is not enough to oppress the Palestinian people and to marginalize Israel’s Arab citizens. This project also requires routing the critics within Israeli society, to weaken the gatekeepers; to crush the Supreme Court, the media, civil society organizations, academia, and culture; to blemish the law books with racist and anti-democratic legislation, and to activate a mechanism of intimidation, persecution, and criticism-muzzling legitimized by the institutions of democracy so as to quash any moral human impulse of resistance.

At the end of this plan lies a nightmare, further aggravated by the powers assigned to Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, which are intended to transfer control over the Palestinians and the settlers in the territories to the latter in order to bring about the full annexation of the West Bank to Israel. Instead of strengthening the Palestinian Authority, illegal outposts are set up and new construction in the settlements is announced, military operations are conducted in the heart of Nablus’s casbah, rockets rain on Sderot from Gaza. All this gives rise to the question: Who is interested in an escalation on the eve of Ramadan? What’s the reason for this nightmare? To which the answer is: death, bloodshed, moral decay, less security, the upcoming state budget, our corrosion as a democratic society.

We see toxic notions of Jewish supremacy trickling down, drop by drop, as laws and regulations enforced in the Occupied Territories seep into the Green Line. This week the police staked out and arrested leading protest activists, a teacher in Rishon Lezion was fired for talking about the regime revolution with his students, all in order to overthrow Israeli democracy and replace it with a state for Jews only.

Now everyone will also start feeling it in their pockets: Economists warn about economic chaos, rising interest rates, a collapse of the stock market, loss of GDP, damage to growth, and a reduction of Israel’s credit rating; President Biden cautioned against regime-change moves not made by consensus, and so did French President Macron and the European Union.

However, Netanyahu, Levin, and Rotman don’t give a damn because all they see is a zero-sum game: the Israeli family’s loss is their crime family’s gain. Behind the regime revolution lies a power struggle and the interests of several groups using the codes of the Gambino family: The Netanyahus, the Deri and Shas families, the religious settlers of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, the Goldknopfs, and the ultra-Orthodox public.

The list would be incomplete without Kohelet Forum, the ultra-conservative think tank about which everything has been said, which is fueled by regular funding and is responsible for the thousands of clauses in the coalition agreements and for the government’s regime revolution plans. A few weeks ago, Kohelet Forum’s director tweeted that women’s right to vote is not a prerequisite of democracy. He did not say that women’s suffrage should be abolished, perish the thought, but that’s how they operate: They slickly introduce the most monstrous ideas, and then slowly proceed to turn them into reality. Kohelet Forum is the body that has been vigorously pushing for the destruction of liberal democracy in Israel and the incorporation of an extreme conservative view and a libertarian economy.

When we emerged from the Knesset building to the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators outside, we saw the hope of millions of Israelis who had come out to fight for the face of our country, for the establishment of a constitution, for equality, for justice and democracy, and I would add, for Jewish-Arab partnership and an end to the occupation.

And I tell you: The fascists and the dictators may be smiling now, but they don’t know what awaits them!

Now that we understand that they are actually spitting on us and that we cannot enter the boxing ring with kid gloves, we shall leave the debate about etiquette for the days after the victory. We shall fight in the squares and in the streets, on social media and in the Knesset committees until democracy wins!

And we shall win!


>> Watch (Hebrew, no subtitles):




Photo: Tomer Appelbaum


Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi


Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.


Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.


Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.



Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.