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Israel's slipping democracy

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But being the democratic nation in a region marked by despotism is not the same as being democratic. And recently, indications have accumulated that Israel is becoming more rather than less like its neighbors.

Earlier this summer, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed two troubling pieces of legislation: the first (which still awaits final ratification) exempts the state from compensating Palestinians harmed during Israel Defense Force (IDF) operations in the territories.

The second, aimed at curtailing the travel of Arab members of the Kenesset (MK), states that any Israeli who has visited an "enemy country" shall be considered a supporter of armed struggle against the Jewish state (unless proven otherwise), and will be prevented from running for parliament in the seven years following the visit.

That law's drafter, Zevulun Orlev, the head of the parliamentary faction of the National Religious Party, explained that the statute will prevent the election of "trojan horses" into the legislature. Arab MKs would now be forced "to decide between the Syrian parliament and the Israeli parliament." On the same day these votes took place, the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee extended the validity of a provision exempting police from videotaping interrogations touching on security matters. The extended immunity is good for four years.

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