Federation Dividing Jews in America on Israel Judicial Reform

American Jewish organizations, including the Federation and ADL, are increasing their intervention into Israeli politics, despite the recent lawful activity of the democratically elected Knesset. The controversial judicial reform in Israel has stirred reactions from multiple quarters. The coalition recently passed the first reform of a historic process aimed at bringing Israel’s activist Supreme Court in line with the judicial limitations present in most Western democracies. The Jewish Federations of North America’s recent criticism appears to sow divisions among Jews in America over this issue.

The Basic Law: The Judiciary, passed with 64 votes in favor, will limit the Supreme Court’s undefined usage of the “reasonableness standard,” which critics argue was often exploited to overturn Knesset legislation and executive policy. This reform has drawn a sharp reaction from the Federation, but its position seems to overlook several crucial aspects of the reform and the broader context in Israel.

Firstly, the Federation appears to misconstrue the nature of the reform. The court will still maintain its authority to rule on petitions and even overturn legislation based on established legal principles. The court will merely lose its authority to overturn legislation on the discretionary basis of what it deems to be acceptable or proper. The court’s often-criticized “reasonableness” standard, previously wielded as an unrestrained lever, will now have restrictions.

Additionally, the Federation’s narrative negates the coalition’s efforts towards compromise. Negotiations, headed by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, were engaged for weeks to reach a broad-based compromise. However, negotiations broke down due to opposition actions, not the government’s intransigence. The Federation’s criticisms seem to be influenced by the opposition’s viewpoint rather than an impartial analysis of the situation.

Furthermore, the Federation’s criticisms may be exacerbating the already significant societal divide among Jews in America. Instead of fostering a balanced dialogue about the reforms, the Federation’s partisan stance may inadvertently encourage divisions among American Jews who might have different perspectives on the issue.

Opposition leaders such as Yair Lapid, Avigdor Lieberman, and Gideon Sa’ar had previously spoken out in favor of judicial reform. Yet, once a right-wing coalition had both the votes and motivation to advance the overdue reforms, the very same policy that opposition leaders previously extolled was now un-kosher. This turn of events suggests the role of political maneuvering, rather than principled opposition to the reforms, in driving the Federation’s criticisms.

Protests against the reform, while passionate, are not purely reflective of societal sentiments. Ehud Barak, a leading figure in the protests, had revealed his agenda to overthrow Netanyahu using protest tools long before judicial reforms rose to the policy agenda. This preconceived agenda seems to shape the protests and the Federation’s criticism more than a sincere disagreement with the reforms.

The Jewish Federations of North America’s criticism of Israel’s judicial reform seems to draw more on partisan influences and less on a balanced evaluation of the situation. This is causing a rift among Jews in America, which risks further exacerbating divisions and hindering constructive dialogue about the reform.

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