Pseudo Democracy: State of the Regime in Israel

>> Click here to read the full report

>> Click here for the executive summary 

Contained in the report attached herein is an in-depth and thorough discussion of the regime type in Israel. It was written by Attorney Eitay Mack based on the consultative opinion of Dr. Tamir Magal. Its steering team consisted of Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal, Prof. Naomi Chazan, Prof. Aeyal Gross, Dr. Maha Karkabi-Sabbah, and Prof. Orit Kedar.

In recent years, parts of the Israeli public and others around the world became of the opinion that the rule of law and the state’s democratic institutions, such as the Knesset, the courts, and the media, faced a real threat.

Zulat’s report shows that Israel has never been a model of a liberal democracy. In other words, its regime has been a hybrid of both democratic and authoritarian components, which at different periods has tilted toward one of those extremes.

The flaws in the regime and its inherent deep tensions have afflicted the State of Israel since its inception. To illustrate this, we will briefly refer to the authoritarian tendencies in the first decades of the state when the Mapai party was in power. The report shows that the democratic crisis did not begin only because of this or that prime minister but due to historical, political, social, and economic circumstances, both in the domestic and international arenas. The report’s focus on the reigns of Mapai and Likud stems from the similarity between the authoritarian tendencies of both parties and from the fact that these are periods that shaped the character of the regime.

An intensification of the authoritarian elements took place at the turn of the 21st century, during the tenures of Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert, until the elections of March 2009, when Netanyahu was re-elected prime minister. This process, which redoubled against the backdrop of the second intifada, was largely influenced by the changes in the balance of political power in Israeli society after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Thus, in parallel with the expansion of the settlement enterprise in the West Bank and rule over the Palestinian people, Israel saw the surge of delegitimization and discredit of the judiciary, the gatekeepers, the Left camp, and Israel’s Arab citizens.

The report deals extensively with Netanyahu’s second term as prime minister, during which the democratic space contracted. It affirms that, in order to entrench his and the Likud’s rule, Netanyahu took advantage of existing authoritarian elements to follow in the footsteps of Mapai and of many prime ministers who preceded him. In addition, he spearheaded radical legislative and public moves that broke the rules of the political game. Among other things, the process of diminishing the status of Basic Laws was accelerated; various steps were taken to reduce the Knesset’s powers and its ability to oversee the executive (such as reducing the government’s dependence on the approval of the state budget, increasing the use of the Economic Arrangements Law, and toughening the requirements for overthrowing the government via a no-confidence vote); efforts were launched to undermine the status and independence of the gatekeepers supposed to check and balance the executive branch (the “Rule of Clerks” campaign), undercut public confidence in the Attorney General and the judiciary, weaken the media’s independence and performance, reduce political competition by means of delegitimization, and enact legislation aimed at removing the Arab public and the Left from the political arena.

The final part of the report contains operational recommendations for dealing with authoritarianism. The report’s steering team formulated 15 proposals designed to update and reinforce existing legal provisions in order to strengthen the democratic foundations of the regime, deal with its authoritarian elements, and preempt the dangers that have grown acute in recent years. The proposed legislation will not solve all the problems of the regime in Israel, but if passed, they may help strengthen the protections of human and civil rights, facilitate the struggle to curb authoritarian tendencies, and tilt Israel’s hybrid regime in the democratic direction.

Read More:

>>27/6/2022   – “Israel is a hybrid regime”  Interview with Zulat President Zehava Galon, The Jerusalem Report


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.