The Role of Religion in the Democratic Crisis in Israel

The relationship between religion and the state in Israel has always been fraught with difficulties. While Israel perceives itself, and is perceived by many, as a liberal democracy, the thick, albeit partial, establishment of orthodox Jewish religion in the state, together with the state's partly religious raison d'etre and self-understanding, defy this perception. Moreover, the coupling of religious ideology with nationalistic fervor following the 1967 occupation of the territories has enabled religious nationalism to become a major driving force behind the democratic crisis that Israel has been experiencing in recent years. Religious forces are taking advantage of the inherent weaknesses of Israel's semi liberal constitutionalism and of the current democratic crisis to buttress the power of religious nationalism and of religion in general and to dismantle liberal rights protections and the rule of law.