For several weeks now, since the new government was formed in the wake of Israel’s recent election which gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a 65-55 majority in the Knesset, many of us have been unsettled by the rising acrimony in Israel. There are several legislative agendas being put forward by the ruling coalition, and they all have significant implications if legislated as proposed. It’s important to understand the nature and implications of the legislative changes being proposed by the new government. Among the most controversial are those described as ‘Judicial Reform’, dealing with the makeup of the Supreme Court, the relationship between the Judiciary and the Legislature, the appointment of Justices, and the capacity of a majority vote in the Knesset to overturn a Supreme Court decision.
As fundamental as these issues are, I always keep top of mind that the concept of a sovereign Jewish state in our ancestral homeland is fundamental to my identity. As long as I can remember, it has idealized and often demonstrated the values of democracy and human rights, with all of the nuance and struggle that the complex history and current reality of our people has demanded.
These are all weighty and consequential issues. Jewish leaders and heroes like Natan Sharansky and Irwin Cotler have urged mutual respect and compromise, without violent threats and without reckless speed. Today, we’d like to share with you several resources which may help to clarify what is being proposed, why it has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets to demonstrate, and why equally large numbers of Israelis appear to be supportive of the proposals.
Earlier this week, Israeli President Yitzchak Herzog spoke to the nation, calling for calm, lowering the temperature, and discussions to find common ground and compromise. Though it seems incremental at best right now, there has been some reporting in Israeli media indicating a willingness to engage constructively on these issues.
This article lays out the issues in a simplified and readable manner. It also lays out the compromise suggested by President Herzog.
And this article includes several expert perspectives on the issues, both within and beyond the Israeli political and legal spheres.
There are several Op/Ed pieces, with new ones appearing daily on the Judicial reform issue in a number of online Israeli news sources, including:
These will, understandably, include partisan perspectives.
Finally, here is a short video with Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, from about a month ago, discussing the new government and the legislation it is advancing.
We all earnestly hope and pray that the end result of this exhausting, painful process in Israel indeed represents the elective outcomes of Israel’s democratic process, while ensuring that the Judiciary will always have the means to protect the rights of the individual.
It’s possible to approach that ideal state. If you will it, it is no dream.
In the coming weeks, Federation is planning to bring a knowledgeable speaker to the community to further illuminate these issues.