judiciary Israel

A short ‘what on earth is going on in Israel’ – the Judiciary post

This is a post that I felt compelled to write but that will make me no friends – on any side. I had originally intended to maintain complete radio silence over the current situation – as is generally my strategy on internal Israeli affairs. Others suggested that given the noise in the UK Jewish community – I shouldn’t remain silent. So here it is – a ‘what on earth is going on in Israel‘ post.

Is it a counter-revolution?

Most people in the UK or US who are currently standing on a roof screaming about ‘a judicial coup’ have probably never heard of Aharon Barak. I want to start by referencing a piece by Hillel Neuer, written in 1998, long before his time as the lead at UN Watch:

“With the 1992 passage of Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, the power of the Israeli judiciary has expanded dramatically, to include the ability to strike down Knesset legislation that in the Supreme Court’s opinion violates normative human rights guarantees.(1) Although the court has yet to play that particular card, every indication is that even if Israel does not adopt a formal constitution, the day is not far off when laws passed by the Knesset will routinely face the review of a Supreme Court charged with the duty of protecting an entrenched set of superceding legal norms.”

Until the 1990s Israel’s parliament was supreme. It is here that those arguing about an ‘end to democracy’ must take pause. Whatever it is that the current government wants to do – it is addressing a situation that arose in the 1990s from a power grab by one of the institutions involved in the constitutional balance of power – the judiciary.

Aharon Barak was an activist head of Israel’s judiciary, and he fundamentally changed the balance of power. Hillel referred to it as ‘what may be the most activist supreme court in the world. Hillel also had the foresight to predict the ‘scope creep‘ that came to define Israel’s current judiciary.

We do not need to rely on his critics for this assessment. At Barak’s retirement – this is what Professor Amnon Rubinstein wrote (article here):

“Judge Aharon Barak’s departure from the presidency of the Supreme Court is of importance that goes beyond the world of law: Barak left his mark on Israeli society on an unprecedented scale. It is difficult to find a parallel in other democracies for a similar influence of any judge. Barak is a revolutionary – a smooth-talking revolutionary, but a revolutionary – who convinced his colleagues to follow in his footsteps and adopt an extraordinary legal policy. According to this policy, the courts can review any administrative or legislative act.

Many may not see a serious issue here – after all his revolution brought many positives, and created a far more liberal society in Israel. Isn’t that a good thing? Maybe to some it is. With a growing religious population, and an inability of the left to win at the ballot box, there are many who may not like where the will of the people (democracy) is leading. This clash is one of the pillars of the current protest.

Is there a problem with the Israeli judiciary?

This is the big question – and the answer is most certainly yes. It is far deeper than one of simply overstepping the constitutional mark – even if the change also has brought positives. If the democratically elected Knesset finds itself subservient to the Judiciary – then who is voting for those who can control Israel’s agenda?

In 2005 the Israeli Prize winning Law Professor Ruth Gavizon was nominated to the Supreme Court. The nomination was rejected. Prof. Gavizon believed that the Supreme Court should reduce its interference in the decisions of the other authorities. This is what Aharon Barak said when he publicly opposed her nomination:

“Her agenda is not good for the Supreme Court”

This shows that the Supreme Court is a self-appointing, self-protecting body. Barak was acting to protect his platform, which allowed him to oversee and override the democratically elected Knesset. If new members of an activist Supreme Court, are chosen by a system which is dominated by the Supreme Court itself, then who is guarding the guards?

In democratic nations, judges in the highest courts in the land are voted in through different systems. In the US Supreme Court judges are voted in through the political system. Whilst it has its critics, this creates a system that should reflect the will of the people.  In the selection systems of most western democracies, the political influence is clear (See examples of Germany and France).  Rooted at the base of all these systems – is a delegation of power that was received through a democratic mandate. Israel is different.

There are nine members on Israel’s selection committee. Three are members of the Supreme Court, which means the ‘internal appointment’ bloc is the largest on the committee. Two more are from the Bar Association – which means with five of the nine seats, Israeli courts become a self-appointing body. Further – SC nominations need seven votes (from the nine) to succeed. Which gives the Supreme Court absolute veto power (with a bloc of three votes).


The problem in Israel is two-fold. The first is the system through which Judges are nominated. The second is overreach. In the UK, unlike most democratic countries, the nomination is not as political and judges are selected with the assistance of a specially constructed Judicial Appointments Commission – designed to create a careful ‘balance’. But in the UK, unlike Israel – Parliament is supreme.

In Israel the court, a democratically unelected body – has taken to define the law in a manner which permits it to interfere via a ‘reasonableness doctrine’  – which permits SC judges to overrule any Parliamentary ruling that contradicts their own definition of what is reasonable and what is not.

“As the Court limited the use of non-justiciability, it expanded the doctrine of reasonableness. Reasonableness allowed judges to void any administrative decision they held to be unreasonable, essentially allowing judges to substitute their judgment for that of the executive branch. At the same time, the Court got rid of the requirement of ‘standing’, which meant that only parties directly affected could petition the court.”

This all means that the Israeli SC

  • Is a body which appoints through a ‘friend of a friend’.
  • Has become ideologically an activist group.
  • Was continually expanding the area of its interference.
  • Had set itself up as an override of the Executive branch.

International interference

What makes all this worse, from a democratic perspective, is the external (non -Israeli) influence on the court. For example, in the UK, like most democratic nations, Judicial Review is dependent on a issue of ‘standing‘ – which in an attempt to ensure that only those directly involved (with a sufficient interest) can raise these issues before the court. This matter is ‘tested’ before the court will sit to consider a case.


In Israel, the now activist Supreme Court, practically abolished this limitation.

Israel is a country at war, it has a long-lasting dispute with the Palestinians, and it faces an international community that is opposed to many of Israel’s interests. It is a simple statement of fact that the majority of nations have bought into pro-Palestinian rhetoric. Since 2001 a network of NGOs has opened a new front – which has recently led to B’tselem, HRW and Amnesty calling Israel an ‘Apartheid state‘. All of these NGOs are dishonest and none of these actors have Israel’s best interests at heart. Some like Adalah have produced large reports full of lies about discriminatory laws in Israel.

These NGOs are supported and funded primarily through bodies such as the EU, or charities that are inherently hostile to Israel. This opened a direct line between the enemies of the state of Israel, and an activist court with a left-wing bias, that ideologically wanted to curb Israeli government activities. Israel’s democratic system becomes totally bypassed. This is not a bad thing if you are a Jewish left-wing activist group in the UK that opposes the ‘occupation’ – but it is not so great if you are an Israeli voter being silenced.

Those who have supported reform

In the mess that has unfolded over recent months, it would be easy to lose sight of all this. It would appear to many that the new coalition has decided to introduce reform and everyone who is sane is against it. This is a long way from the truth. For example, Tzipi Livni – a major voice in the anti-reform camp – had a different view when she held a position of power.

The last government, saw Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett agree measures to curb the SC’s overstep:

Bennett Lapid

Going back further, Levin (the proposer of the reform laws today) worked alongside Naftali Bennett in 2013, in trying to reform the SC, including the composition of the selection committee.  The will has always been there, the only question is why these reforms have not taken place before? The problem lies in Israel’s PR system.

The proportional representation issue

Israel’s PR system famously creates non-stable governments. It also raises a counter argument for those suggesting the missing ‘second chamber’ is a key weakness in Israel’s democracy. Israel does not have a first-past the post system – which in turn means that the executive is formed through a coalition of different voices from within parliament. It mostly leads to a diverse representation, numbing the potential pitfalls of an overly-powerful executive without a checks and balances system. It should also be remembered the House of Lords – the UK’s Second House, had its power to confront government neutered.

The will to bring about a reform has been there for many years – and has intensified as the Judiciary became increasingly politicised. But the means was not there, as Israel’s PR system inevitably led to weak coalitions without a clear ideological vision. Whatever reform some wanted to bring, there was always opposition from within. Until now. The last election saw the first ideologically closed coaltion for over thirty years.

Which has led to the reform bill.

What is going on?

If there is a stable government, and if it was democratically elected – then what’s the problem?

Let me first put the notion of ‘right’ v ‘left’ to bed. Gideon Sa’ar is not a leftist. Avigdor Leiberman is not a leftist. Benny Gantz is not a leftist. Israel’s current political situation is built up around many things, but ideological positioning vis-a-vis the Palestinians is only a small part of the mix.

Netanyahu has been in power a long time and he has created a lot of enemies. People like Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Limor Livnat – key faces in public opposition to Netanyahu – all have a long history of political and personal dislike for Netanyahu. Added to this, there are current political adversaries who came from the Israeli right, such as Avigdor Leiberman and Gideon Sa’ar. Finally there are centrists – who could have been potential partners in a Netanyahu government – who will have nothing more to do with him – like Benny Gantz.

Over the last decade a distinct ‘anti-Bibi’ camp formed, and for the last few years, it was this battle, rather than any fought on ideological grounds, that defined Israeli politics.

(I have deliberately left the Netanyahu court cases to one side. It is symbolic of the problem. Many on the left and centre see Netanyahu as a ‘crime minister‘. Those on the right largely believe the ‘hounding’ of him on ‘spurious charges‘ is just part of the system’s attempt to undermine the right wing. This in turn means that many see his drive for judicial reform, as a means for him to escape the judicial process himself. Pick your side, but having followed the cases closely, it is difficult to esape a conclusion that some political targetting in the process has occured.)

So many burned bridges – whether of his own doing or not – left Netanyahu with a coalition problem. The last election results meant he could easily build one – but he had no options in who his partners would be. This was made even worse, by the actions of the anti-Bibi camp. Although they are unlikely to ever engage in introspection, after the previous election – in order to bring Netanyahu down – left and centrist parties offered Naftali Bennett, a leader of a minor party on the right wing, with just seven seats – the PM chair.  He took the bait. Many of his voters felt betrayed, his party imploded, and it created a vacuum in the ideological space that those such as Ben Gvir swiftly filled.

Trying to stay on top of all this is not easy.

The two Israels

The election gave Israel a coalition in which almost half of Israel does not feel represented at all. Populations of major cities such as Tel Aviv, which is dominated by left and centrist voters – look with horror at a right wing and religious bloc that they feel is alien to them and their values.

But here is gets increasingly divisive. Proportionally more Ashkenazi Jews vote left or centre – and the reverse is true for Israel’s Sephardim and Mizrahi Jews. Parties such as the Likud and Shas are dominated by voters who are Jews with a family heritage in places such as Iraq, Morocco, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Syria. These people often feel like they are second class citizens – whose votes and values are overruled by what they see as a country dominated by an Ashkenazi elite. Little is more representative of this dominance than Israeli institutions that do not seem to cater for Israel’s ethnic diversity at all – institutions such as the Israeli Supreme Court.

The concerns of these voters should not be so easily dismissed. Certainly not with the empty smears and name-calling that currently fills the airwaves.

For most of those reading, much of this may seem odd. Both the UK and US are solid Ashkenazi populations with a centrist / leftist slant. Their friends in Israel are mostly Jews with an Ashkenazi heritage living in places such as Tel Aviv, Herzliya and so on. When they speak to their ‘Israeli friends’, they are rarely escaping a bubble similar to the one they live in at home. It may seem to those who read the Jewish News, that ‘all of Israel’ is in uproar. But this is not true at all. Only half of Israel is.

Israel has regular elections – and we know how the Israelis vote. Whether you are willing to accept it or not – large parts of Israel want the reforms, and this is not as one-sided, or as clear-cut, as some in the UK or US may want you to believe. Much of this protest is not about the reform itself, but about getting rid of a government that has just been voted in. Opposition to the proposed reform becomes the excuse and the banner to stand behind. This reminds me of a Brexit style argument with two deeply divided sides throwing empty smears at each other.

The reform was watered down, has now been halted – and the sides have come to the table to talk. We can all take a breather until after the upcoming holidays and celebrations.

Round one is over. Hopefully sane heads and wise voices will avert the need for a round two. In the meantime, I have antisemites to fight.

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51 thoughts on “A short ‘what on earth is going on in Israel’ – the Judiciary post

  1. Your original decision was the right one. With all due respect this summary is shallow and inadvertently steeped in one-sided propaganda talking points. In fact it is oddly and sadly reminiscent of exactly the kind of well-meaning but ignorant “pro-Palestinian” articles that you generally pick apart. Best to, as the saying goes, stay in one’s lane.

    1. Gideon – can you point me to something in the article that is not factual?
      I notice you have posted hundreds of articles on your FB page with all manner of ridiculous notions and false demonisations on the issue. You have made no comment about the shift in the balance of powers since the 1990s either. So what is your lane and when should I tell you that you have stepped outside it? I mean you actually posted this shameful nonsense
      “these days one is either for the Likud or one is for Israel.”…
      So I am not surprise you do not like my post.

      1. The protests are against a dramatic and rollercoasting reform. The protestors include people from left and right. Just to inform people the majority of SC judges were nominated by Bibi or Ayelet Shaked – hardly left wingers. Reform is indeed needed but must be achieved by consensus and debate.

        1. Thanks Ann. The protests are also against Bibi and his government. I am not sure that saying the protestors include people from ‘left and right’ is a fair relection of the crowd. The vast majority of people in the crowd did not vote right wing. The vast majority of the right wing are not in the crowd. To mention it as you do, distorts what the very deep and real divide on Israel’s streets. And it does not matter who nominated the SC judges – they are caught in the realms of ‘what is possible’. There is little doubt, as you imply that reforms are needed – which means your comment about the nominations is somewhat redundant. It is true that the only real way to do this is through consensus – but this needs goodwill ON BOTH SIDES. It isn’t just about asking the Netanyahu camp to play fair with the centre ground, it is about asking the centre ground to play fair with Netanyahu. Given they can probably smell Bibi’s political blood at this point, I am not sure anyone is going to be the adult in the room.

      2. I didnt say non-factual, I said steeped in one-side’s propaganda talking points. Your article (inadvertently I believe) presents opinions as facts. As an example of the difference – you are correct that I have reached the conclusion that the Likud has degenerated into an organization who’s agenda is only sometimes aligned with the interests of Israel (with this time not being one of those times). But that is my opinion. I do not present it as as anything other than my opinion. By contrast, you present a number of “facts” in your article which are not facts at all – they are assertions by one side of a two-sided debate. Some examples:

        “it is addressing a situation that arose in the 1990s” What you mean is that the proponents CLAIM to be addressing a situation that arose in the 1990s. Since their proposals do not return us to anything remotely similar to the situation before the 1990s, on what basis do you repeat this claim as fact?

        “Is a body which appoints through a ‘friend of a friend” where is some evidence that this is the case? You yourself contradict the idea since you describe the voting procedures on the appointments committee which give non-Court members a veto on appointments and make it impossible for the Court or any of the other constituent groups to ram through their “friends”.

        “democratically elected Knesset finds itself subservient to the Judiciary” – actually this one is an example of an inaccuracy – its like calling the US President “subservient” to the US Congress because the Congress needs to approve certain executive decisions. Thats simply what checks and balances mean – the Executive in Israel, like in the US, needs consent of whatever institution it is that is checking and balancing it. (BTW, exactly what the government is trying to do away with which is why there is such a fuss).

        “the external (non -Israeli) influence on the court.” – where is there any evidence of any foreign influence on the court?

        I will stop here but hopefully you get the point.

        1. As others have pointed out here, and as I made clear in my piece – there is an attempt to provide balance to what has become (in the UK because it is dominated by Ashkenazi, semi secular Jews with a leftist liberal lean) a one sided rant. It would interest me if you spend as much time trying to make articles that argue strongly against the reform as forensically balanced as you wish this piece to be.

          Yor criticisms are often unfair and loaded. For example, when I say it “is addressing a situation that arose in the 1990s” you attack the point by suggesting that the proposed reforms do not return us to the 1990s, ergo, my statement is not accurate. That’s a stretch and places an unneccesary burden on the comment I made. What you want in the piece is for it to be something it is not – an article promoting the arguments of the anti-reform camp. It is absolutely true that the court has become ideologically slanted and more active since the 1990s and the reform camp is addressing that situation. This is not an opinion – or at least not one opposed by anyone I have seen. I am raising points that many of my readers in the UK and US would simply not be aware of. Why? Because much of the material they read is heavily slanted in a different direction. My role is weighted from the start.

          Your criticism of the subservient comment is also unfair and loaded. The example you give is the US Congress, which is a democratically elected body. The Supreme Court is not a democratically elected body. So they become incomparable in a checks and balances system…. As I point out in the piece. It might please anti-occupation groups in the UK that the courts have an ideological slant that is not reflective of the wider population – but Israeli democracy is not there to serve UK Jews.

          You ask me about foreign influence. I thought it was clear from the post. By removing many of the barriers to seek judicial review, the courts become vulnerable to claims from an endless stream of NGOs that are not directly affected and are funded from without. This is quite a simply case of ideology driving the overreach. The Israeli courts caseload should be defined by the interests of those people that are under its jurisdiction, not by how much money the EU is pumping into one or another NGO to make noise.

          Again, I am not arguing that there are not issues with the proposals and a need for wide consensus. I am saying that the other side – despite it all (Ben Gvir etc) has a case, and simply dismissing it and half of the population out of hand – which many do – is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

          But anyway. We do not need to agree. I have said what I wanted to say, I get those who are strongly in the ‘anti-reform’ camp will disagree and I can live with that.

          1. So firstly it seems like two of our disagreements are based on misunderstanding rather than content so I will just make a couple of editorial comments on those. (1) Had I known your article was an “attempt to provide balance” to a certain viewpoint, it would not have upset me the way it did. But you do not explain anywhere that that is what you have in mind. To the contrary, your introduction says “an article I put together to help to explain it all”. I would respectfully suggest that you add an introductory paragraph to let people know what you think the article is and what it is not. (2) I understand now, from your comment, that you meant there is a connection between foreign entities and the court because the court does not require standing. I dont think that is clear from the text though – without a sentence explicitly explaining the connection, I, unfairly apparently, assumed it relates to one (of the many) conspiracy theories that the government backers have been putting out about this stuff.

            Regarding the other points – I think you misunderstand a couple of them:

            That the proposals are “addressing a situation that arose in the 1990s” is simply not a fact. It is a hypothesis. Even if it is the hypothesis you prefer, an hypothesis should not be presented as a fact. An alternative hypothesis, held by a great number of serious analysts, is that the proposals have nothing do with “addressing a situation that arose in the 1990s” but are addressing the very specific needs and interests of various members of the coalition. So here we have two opposing hypotheses, one of which is ignored and the other is presented as fact. My observing that the proposals do not in fact return us to the pre-1990s was just to make it obvious that there is no prima facie reason to elevate the first hypothesis over the second.

            The subservient comment seems to reflect a misunderstanding of the concepts of checks and balances. Checks and balances within democratic systems do not themselves have to be democratic.
            Frequently they are not. One of the checks for example under the US system is the US constitution – a completely undemocratic check. No living voter in the US ever voted on the many constraints that that constitution impose on elected governments. Another check is the US senate – a body that is very far from being representative of US voters. In fact it would be interesting to calculate whether the average US voter has in fact significantly more influence on the composition of the Senate than the average Israeli voter has on the composition of the Israeli High Court. At any rate what all this means is that the fact that the Israel High Court is only partially influenced by elected representatives has nothing to do with and does not in any way diminish its role as a check on the power of the government.

            Regarding your question about whether I also criticize imbalance on other articles, the answer is yes. In fact when this whole thing started I spent a great deal of time reading articles both pro and con the “reform” and debating with their authors before making up my mind about. This very explicitly included arguing with “cons” authors about them not at least referencing the “pro” arguments. (This before I realized that nobody, yourself included by the way, seems to ever articulate any “pro” arguments – yours is one of hundreds of articles that provide arguments against the current system, but I have yet to see one that tries to provide any arguments FOR the proposed new system.)

            1. Thanks Gideon. I do read respectful responses and pay attention to them. I am at a conference today giving a talk about the bias inherent in Wiki, which given the current circumstances is light relief. Cards on the table – I cannot promise I will return to this simply because it was posted for a reason, but is not part of my primary fight – so the question becomes how long I keep myself away from getting back to work. Some of what you have written is ‘rabbit hole’ stuff – which means we could spend days arguing over the Congress / Court comparison or discussing whether the two hypotheses are equal. It doesn’t make them unimportant, but I would argue that the time we would invest is not neccessarily the best use for either of our skillsets. I will however add something onto the section of the NGOs to make it clearer. I don’t EVER do conspiracies. Best wishes

      3. David “In the meantime, I have antisemites to fight”.

        Which reminds me, how is your repost to Tony Greenstein’s ‘Zionism During the Holocaust’ coming along?

  2. Superb analysis. However some of us don’t rate Jewish News, are religious and support the proposed changes to the Supreme Court. In my own case I was consulted on this issue as an academic at left-wing Haifa University in 2006.

    1. The Jewish News has become very left wing in the last few years. That’s what he was referring to. I used to enjoy it until 4 or 5 years ago.

    1. Re: Irwin Cotler.
      For many reasons Israel couldn’t draft constitution for the past 75 years.
      What is going to happen earlier: Israelis will agree on a constitution or Messiah will come?

    2. The ‘Times of Israel’ has taken a totally one sided anti-reform stance on this issue
      I stopped reading it a while ago because of its one-sided viewpoint which ignores everyone else’s opinions

  3. and RE:
    “These * NGOs* are supported and funded primarily through bodies such as the EU, or charities that are inherently hostile to Israel. This opened a direct line between the enemies of the state of Israel, and an activist court with a left-wing bias, that ideologically wanted to curb Israeli government activities. Israel’s democratic system becomes totally bypassed. This is not a bad thing if you are a Jewish left-wing activist group in the UK that opposes the ‘occupation’ – but it is not so great if you are an Israeli voter being silenced./”

    PLEASE note that the secretive billionaire funded NGO- “KOHELET FORUM” is behind many of these new draconian, hastily passed game changing laws; you can see some information about them on Google . Also some of the major players in the Knesset new lawmakers, are members, it is reported.
    Have חג שמח —G

    1. There is a very big difference. Left wing groups receive money from foreign governments and private donors. Some of these private donors are well documented anti-Israel foundations like Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation.
      Right wing groups receive money only from private donors. These donors give money also to real charities like Magen David Adom.
      Examples: In 2015 Rockefeller Foundation gave $3 million to “pro-Israel” J Street to promote Iran Deal. Eight years later Iran is getting bomb.
      In 2021 they gave $165,000 to Jewish Voice for Peace to promote BDS.

  4. David, as always, your bulletins are interesting to read.

    I recently discussed the judicial review crisis with a friend, who made two worthwhile observations.

    As cunning and as as devious as Netanyahu is with his political activity, firing his defence minister was possibly a self inflicted wound.

    One has to ask the question, what is the real reason Netanyahu has put a hold on the reforms ? .. probably because he wasn’t going to get a majority in the Knesset; some of the Likud MKs were not going to back him.

    1. Thanks Jeremy. Personally I think the coalition has made a run of huge mistakes, not least as you point out – with the firing of the Defence Minister. I am not sure about his motivations for pausing them. It is possible he didn’t have a majority although he has got an ideologically tight ship. It is also possible that with the ufolding chaos on the street, he had no choice.

  5. David, I am as loathed to comment on this as you may have been to write it. As you have often said here, your main constituency is a diasporan readership and your purpose is activism motivated by “hostiles” from outside Israel. With this said you have noted the complex nature of our current landscape which has many nuances that are not easily defined using conventional language and I felt compelled to offer some words on this. As an example, words like “leftists” and “rightists” tend to be used here as terms of abuse rather than as political distinctions and are thrown around as freely as the excitable young Netanyahu tweets of the 600,000+ participants in the weekly street gatherings as anarchist terrorists who should all be imprisoned. It is the calculated and emotive language of the propogandist but in literal terms is quite meaningless to the objective reader or observer.

    In terms of the coalition, I have no sympathy for Mr. Netanyahu and his partners many of whom lack the experience and the emotional intelligence to act as diligent public servants able to solve some very serious and complex problems in our country. Nonetheless there are certain merits in the judicial reforms insofar as it cannot be right for non-elected officials to be making rather than upholding law. This is a view that most Israelis share but rail against the illogical and unseemly haste with which the process is being prosecuted as well as against the treatment of those that express their legitimate concerns. Expert constitutionalists, jurists, academics, public servants and leaders from the business world have all been sidelined in the dash to legislate and there is a strong suspicion that the reason for this is that the primary beneficiaries of change will be certain members of the coalition with their own personal legal difficulties. This may or may not be right but the coincidence of circumstances makes for very bad optics for those MKs and ministers concerned.

    The extent to which any of this actually matters to your diasporan readership or whether it is simply a case of being seen to support Israel no matter what is probably something that you are better placed to understand and address than me.

    1. Thanks Ian… you start “that you are as loathed to comment as I may have been to write it”

      you have no idea………

  6. David – as someone who lives here and asks questions I can say that a very sizeable proportion of the protestors are from Likud voters who are becoming more and more disillusioned. They are especially angry about the dismissal of Galant.

    1. Ann, I’m not sure how easy it is to determine what proportion of the 600,000+ weekly participants is from one political group or another, even less so as you travel through the regional protests. In my small suburb of Netanya there were an estimated 32,000 of us at the rally last weekend. 92% of this electorate voted Lapid at the last election according to published stats but many of them were negative protest votes. Certainly some of us are on the political right and felt somewhat disenfranchised due to the absence from the ballot sheet of Naftali Bennett. For me his return cannot come soon enough so that we and the disaffected Likudniks whom you mention have a worthy and legitinate right wing candidate for whom to vote.

    2. There is no argument from me over the dismissal of Galant. Nor is there any argument from me about disenfranchised voters on the right (I even get to that in the post), nor those on the right who are now opposing the government woeful handling of the issues (of which Galant is the best example) rather than strictly protesting the reform itself.

  7. Facts:
    In the 3 or more elections recently , this very hastily ‘reform’ was never on any party platform… the public simply did not know about the issues! I am a citizen of Israel resident for 60 plus years. I read and use and study many news media. In Hebrew.

    Also note: Netanyahu
    himself is on record praising
    the court!

    1. More – I did not manage to read all David’s rather lengthy pieces..did he mention …unlike the UK, and USA with intricate” checks and balances”- Israel has a citizens’ Army. National Service. Families ‘ donate’ children to serve for 3 whole years. BUT Haredim, 15% of population do not serve ! Neither do ‘ minorities’, with some exceptions.

      This is coming to a head. The word in Hebrew, slang, is
      is perceived as *fry’ers*. This is an essential part of Israeli daily vocabulary. If you write about Israel, please analyse this.

  8. Absolutely right – this was not part of the Likud manifesto so people did not actually vote for it.

    1. That is not strictly true. Even if – as I believe- this whole thing has been woefully mishandled. Even if there has been mistake after mistake. Even if we all know what we think of Ben Gvir etc. Even if – the end of Bibi’s era cannot come soon enough. It is wrong to say this was not part of the election – and dismiss it as if it were a *secret idea* they never informed anyone about. This is exactly what I am referring to. People stop talking about the truth and start creating scenarios that simple are not real. When both sides engage in this, it is a very dangerous slope.

  9. I can send written testaments from solid Likud voters who are against the reform in its present form.

    1. I think that we need to keep a focus here in the spirit of David’s piece and what I assume was it’s purpose here, namely to draw the curtail back a little for a diasporan readership of the goings on in our chaotic country . For them I doubt that it matters one jot whether the judicial reforms were or were not part of the Likud manifesto and honestly Ann, it shouldn’t matter to us either. This is a distraction to what I believe is the much bigger issue and the one that has created the noise and got so many of us onto the streets every week, namely the coalition’s MO.

      I’m sure we agree that in any democracy only elected representatives rather than unelected ones should make law. So, in broad terms the reforms have merit. What does not is the illogical and unseemly haste with which they are being prosecuted in order, as many suspect, to aid those specific coalition members with personal legal difficulties of their own. These people will be the primary beneficiaries of the breakneck reform process which may keep them out of prison and in office. Readers from outside Israel may be interested to know that the concerns around this process and the shameful treatment of any naysayer have been the real sparks that have fired the blood of so many Israelis who have never cared about anything this much in peacetime.

      Whether any of this really matters to the diasporans, and I’m not so sure it does, is probably a worthy subject for a separate piece.

  10. I’m in Israel at the moment and I keep asking everyone what is wrong with the reforms.
    First they claim it will destroy democracy, then when I ask how they mumble and grumble, but offer no evidence to back up their opinion.
    Then they claim that the religious parties will remove democratic rights and target the gay and lesbian communities, and when I say that the nominally most powerful position in the Knesset is held by an openly gay man they turn aside mumbling and grumbling.
    And then they enthuse about the last government and how democratic it was, until I say look at the way Lapid ignored the laws about surrendering areas under Israeli jurisdiction by refusing to go to the Knesset and the people and unilaterally signed an agreement altering Israel’s see border with Lebanon and then then they look away mumbling and grumbling before storming off saying they can’t talk to me
    This entire protest movement is driven by foreign money (NGO’s etc), people with a particular agenda (anti-Netanyahu etc) and/or ignorance
    An excellent piece David

  11. It seems that most parties in opposition have talked about reforming the Supreme Court but once in power run from it as fast as they can.
    If Lapid and Co had put forward proposals instead of taking to the streets maybe a more balanced discussion and proposals would have been possible.
    For the the first time I really fear for Israel’s future after this current disaster; will it ever be able to recover. The Arabs have said, and are saying, that Israel normally survives for 80 years before collapsing into itself. Are they right , or will Israel manage to pull itself back from the brink

    1. I think you’ve been talking to the wrong Israelis Richard.

      Characterizing the protests as driven by foreign money is somewhat dismissive and with respect, demeaning of the 600,000+ people who are participating in the gatherings every week.

      Had you found yourself in South Netanya last Saturday night you may have spotted me amongst the 32,000 crowd that chose to voice our legitimate concerns at the conduct of our coalition government. Had you approached and asked me the same question as you posed to others I would have confirmed that there was great merit in the reforms and that my concern was not in their substance but in the illogical and unseemly haste to enact the legislation by the coalition and its appalling treatment of anyone who requested a voice in the consultation process. Moreover I may have speculated that the primary beneficiaries of the reforms appeared to be specific members of the coalition with their own personal legal difficulties who were anxious to preserve their personal freedoms from prosecution and remain in public office.

      It is unlikely that the conversation would have steered itself towards the accusations of inward investment from agenda driven foreign actors and even less likely that we would have discussed this as the principle catalyst behind the mass action. The reason for this is quite simple and may serve as a useful instruction to other diasporan readers and non-doms who bring their own biases and pre-conceptions to the table when commenting on our domestic affairs. Normally, Israelis simply do not care enough about these things and certainly have no history of expending this amount of energy on street protest. Obviously is you invade us or threaten our borders you will certainly feel the our collective wrath and the business end of some serious whoop-ass. But politics? Do me a favour. There is no amount of NGO money or conspiracy theorist cash cows that will divert Lior Local from the bars and hummusarias on a Saturday night just to listen to some transient politician with a megaphone. The current climate is entirely indicative of around 20% of the active electorate saying ‘enough is enough’ and that, my friend is the best and most accurate snapshot that I can give you of real life here at present.

      This is turning into a much more interesting thread than I’d imagined although probably not so much for the non-Israeli readership.

  12. Well written. As I keep emphasizing the demonstrators are made up of diverse sectors of the population who are concerned at the speed and overreach of the present judicial reforms. Many of them do not mumble – they explain clearly their concerns for the democratic nature of the country. Perhaps it is difficult for those people who have never or do not live here to understand but those of us who do see a clear threat to our democratic future and this is not just anti- Bibi or anti- Haredi or sore losers (we’ve lost enough over the last few years). This is genuine concern.

  13. As of now I have not been unable to get a coherent answer from anyone as to why my queries about these reforms are a threat to democracy.
    I studied law in the UK and my daughter studied law and works in Israel, so we both have a pretty good idea of the legal issues pertaining to the reforms.
    The way to ensure that these reforms will meet most people’s needs and requirements is to sit down and negotiate, rather than take to the streets ,and in my opinion put the future of Israel at risk (for everyone)

    1. In a reasonable world populated entirely by good faith actors this would happen exactly as you suggest Richard. It may still. However, there is much mistrust on all sides and a strong sense that the conduct of the coalition is highly self serving in its motives and that the national interest is not being served by their actions.

      Don’t get too fixated on the “threat to democracy” soundbite. It is simply a slogan around which the troops can huddle. Think of how successfully Mr. Netanyahu has used this same tactic on Election Days when he takes to the airwaves to warn of the threats of bus-loads of Arabs being taken to the polling booths to challenge the Jewish State. This helps him get the core vote out and his opponents have learnt from this.

      It should be becoming increasingly clear as this thread extends that all is not always as it seems over here to the gentle diasporan reader and the most successful way to navigate these choppy local waters is with a very open mind and sympathetic ear to all sides.

  14. Ian

    What you say is right, but there is much more to this protest than the reforms. The Bibi and Deri aspects to this are, or were, the driving force behind these protests, and as long as Bibi is in politics this severe dislocation and alienation in Israeli politics will continue.
    I’ve had an issue with Bibi since his infantile display in the UN, and can’t see any way forward as long as he rules the roost.
    But these street demo’s have turned into much more than Bibi and from where I sit they are different to any other protests I have yet seen, and in my opinions may put the future of Israel at risk

    And before you say it, being outside the country gives one a different overview of the situation and a different opinion. And neither your or my views and opinions are exactly right or wrong

    1. Your last sentence gets us to the heart and soul of things Richard. There are some very angry voices here intent on sowing the seeds of discord and division amongst our people. Now more than ever we need calmer and more reasonable actors on the stage with a will to find common ground through collaboration on all points of the political spectrum. I fear that for the time being, those capable of such things are some distance from that stage. However, I always maintain that the curse of Zionism is boundless optimism and this frames my view that ultimately we can and will be better. Chag sameach to you and yours.

      1. Hello Ian, I hope you don’t mind if I interject in this little squabble.

        I can’t help but smile when I see you and others here mentioning ‘democracy’ and ‘right and left’ as though you were serious :-). You and your fellow Zionists know, but will never admit, that there has NEVER been democracy in Israel ever since it was founded by gangs of terrorists. And as for right and left, in Israel there is no ‘left’ as most people would understand it, there is right, far right, and ultra crazy right!

        By the way, the ‘curse of Zionism’ is Zionism itself, with its delusions, lies and myths based upon rights which do not exist.

        1. And if an independent state called Palestine ever did exist (it never has before) then how democratic would it be do you reckon?

          How often would elections take place ?

          Would all its citizens have equal rights regardless of their religion or gender or sexuality ?

          Hmmmmm I wonder


          Answers on a postcard please Jack T(wat)

  15. I am of the opinion of Ian.. I made Aliya in 1961,work, mix, and all my extended family are veteran Israelis. I would advise all the Diaspora mavens to try to research as I did, reliable sources ( I mean not journalism, blogs, headlines in newspapers), but these: Judicial Review in the United Kingdom., in the USA, in Canada, And the issue of the ‘Overhaul’, too. Why? Because PM Netanyahu repeatedly states: and heard him on Prime Time TV , here in Israel.- he says the new ‘reforms’ will bring us into line with the above States..

    I am sorry to say…that’s completely untrue.

    PS: the Canadians call their so called ‘overhaul’- the *‘notwithstanding’*, and it’s exceedingly qualified and limited. But, please go into the actual details and nothing is easier for the USA, and the UK….all in the King’s English.
    חג שמח


  16. I don’t participate on Twitter or other social channels so this message is best placed here. I have no wish to teach the pro-Jew, pro-Israel activists how to suck eggs and offer the utmost respect to them for their tireless and selfless endeavors. However it may be a better use of their energies to address the vintage coverage of our current difficulties here by the British national broadcaster. It is quite remarkable to me how a report of missiles being fired on civilians from beyond their borders by actors designated as terrorists by the British government can be so dramatically skewed. The broadcaster has even taken the cowardly step of removing its own comment section for fear of unsympathetic response. I imagine that if I was a British Jew living in Britain and with sympathies towards Israel I would feel a little miffed reading this imbalanced, propogandist bile.

    1. There is a professional organization dedicated to exposing lies about Israel on BBC and other British “news” sources.
      They have menus to complain to BBC or you can leave your message to CAMERA at bottom of https://camera-uk.org/#

      You may find one of their publications very interesting

  17. David. I enjoy your reports!

    I could cherry pick some statements however ( I am a Jew
    who made aliya in 1961 and function in Hebrew all the time.

    Here is a summary of the first 100 days of this Israel government coalition. I like it, inevitably some will dislike it.

    The Hundred Days War: Chronicles of a government in chaos and a nation at the brink


    …moadim le’simha.

    Isaac Geoffrey Collins

    1. Thanks Isaac, but pieces like this do not help. I went through the history of the journo. This is part of the problem. Journalists have become far too active on the political front. Why is there no criticism of the previous coalition. In fact, there are levels of absurd praise. Through it all there are snipes at Bibi, even when he was just the leader of the opposition. Even if every point she makes here is sound – how can anyone possibly trust what she writes?

      The media are their as an institute of the checks and balances system. When they fail, the system fails. One example:

    2. My comment to “The Hundred Days War”
      “The Times of Israel and other left wing news sources are more like Carnival Fun House Mirrors.
      You are looking on reflections of Bibi in these mirrors.”

      I had been waiting for someone with a severe form of Bibi Derangement Syndrome to start blaming Netanyahu for starting this war. Today, in comments to the article “Anti-overhaul protests going ahead despite terror wave” in ToI:

      “Netanyahu suspended the legislation long enough to start a war (with the help of Ben Gvir) which is an incredible coincidence that things flared the moment they decided to start the talks, then when protests are subsided under threat of war, goes back to his shenanigans.”
      It is sad that so many ToI readers liked that post.

  18. David, I am not a person who studied law but I try to research some concepts. Here you discuss ” unreasonable”, as a part of jurisdiction by the Israel Court.

    To the lay person ear, this
    sounds arbitrary and subjective..

    However it is a commonly used concept in British law.

    What is the Wednesbury test for unreasonableness?
    A reasoning or decision is Wednesbury unreasonable (or irrational) if it is so unreasonable that no reasonable person acting reasonably could have made it (Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation (1948) 1 KB 223).
    https://uk.practicallaw.thomsonreuters.com › …
    Wednesbury unreasonableness – Practical Law
    A ban on this judgement would be unreasonable .

    1. Thanks Isaac. There is no argument over the Wednesbury test. I am a lay person too, although I did take several LLM modules – including the constitutional one. It is an argument about shifting lines in the carefully set balance of power. We cannot pretend for a minute the matter is a settled one, and each pillar battles for more reach – more power -more importance. This is a game played all over the world. In many countries even though the battle exists – the institutional positions are more set in stone. In Israel they are more fluid. It is undeniable that the Israeli Supreme Court has more power now than it did in the 1980s. Some may see that as a good thing. Other will not. But either way it is still a shift. The current government want to shift the lines again. Some will think it good, others will think it wrong. Even some who would support some reverse shift, may oppose this government move because in their opinion it goes too far. We are not arguing over the basic judicial principles but rather the reach of the jurisdiction. I understand the concern. I am certainly no friend of some elements in the coalition. I just wrote a post to provide some balance over here to what is just a one-sided newsreel that wrongly suggests 99% of Israel is against the current government.

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