The Challenges of an Ethnic-democracy: Populism, Netanyahu and Israel's Path


  • Daniel Gal Maastricht University



Populism, Israel


Soon to become Israel's longest serving Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu's fourth government is regarded as the most right-wing coalition in Israeli history. While populism is on the rise worldwide, Netanyahu has been in power intermittently since the 90's – utilising a particular kind of populism articulated by Dani Filc (2009) - post-populism - to remain in power. Examining Israel's special and delicate political status as an ethnic-democracy, this chapter concludes that the current government is promoting rhetoric and policy which entail the risk of defying the balance between Israel's Jewish-ethnic character, its obligation to Democratic values and the integrity of its ethnic and political minorities. In election campaigns and attempts to secure political capital, as well as in everyday legislation, the current government has directly and indirectly targeted minorities, left-wing opposition and civil rights group. Exclusionary nationalistic rhetoric, a tool vastly used by right wing populists worldwide in the US, France, the UK and others, has become a common commodity in the Israeli right's toolbox. With the balance still preserved, Israel's democracy is facing grave challenges ahead – and as Israel's president Rubi Rivlin said, the Israeli society must ensure it reaches these challenges prepared.