That's the diagnosis of two former heads of their intelligence service:
Two former heads of Israel’s powerful domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, have made an impassioned and powerful intervention ahead of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in June.
One of the pair warned that the country’s political system was sunk in the process of “incremental tyranny”.
Ami Ayalon and Carmi Gillon were speaking ahead of a public meeting at a Jerusalem gallery which is threatened with closure for hosting a meeting organised by the military whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence, one of the main targets of the rightwing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Incremental tyranny [is a process] which means you live in a democracy and suddenly you understand it is not a democracy any more,” Ayalon told a small group of journalists, including the Guardian, ahead of the event. “This is what we are seeing in Israel. The tragedy of this process is that you only know it when it is too late.”
Ayalon cited recent moves by ministers in the Netanyahu government to change the laws to hit groups such as Breaking the Silence by banning them from events in schools and targeting their funding, while also taking aim at the country’s supreme court and independence of the media.
Israel likes to call itself "the only democracy in the Middle East". That is fast ceasing to be true. They may retain the trappings, but when they criminalise opposition to the government and its apartheid policies, they cease to be democratic. Hopefully they'll pull themselves back from the brink. If not, well, a tyranny is not exactly the sort of country anyone wants to call a friend - or give a shit about when it has trouble.