What is Currently Happening in Israel?

May 22, 2023
Ruby Borer

Sydney, Australia

Class of 2024

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If you are anything like me, every day your Instagram feed and daily news outlets are constantly reporting on rallies within Israel that are drawing tens of thousands of people weekly, but what are these reforms and why are they so polarizing? Although a difficult and divisive issue to wrap your head around, it is undeniable that both sides have valid arguments and both sides deserve the right to have their voices heard.

To start, some background knowledge is required. Although currently a democracy, Israel’s democracy looks vastly different to that of pretty much every other Western democracy worldwide. To begin, Israel does not have a constitution and is instead governed by a semi-constitutional set of laws set out in the Basic Laws of the state. These laws can be changed at any time by a simple majority in the Knesset making the constitutional replacement fluid unlike any other country. Additionally, Israel only has a single legislative body with very minimal separation between the legislature and executive branches of government. This means that the only check and balance on the power of the Knesset is through the Judicial branch of government. This gives the judiciary a significant amount of power which was further increased by Aharon Barak during his term as the President of the Supreme Court of Israel. Almost everyone in Israel is able to agree that some sort of Judicial reform is necessary, but the reforms proposed by the Netanyahu coalition have proved to be strongly divisive. The Netanyahu-Levin-Rothman reforms aim to strengthen the executive branch of government at the expense of the judicial branch of government which will be done through three main changes to the functionality of the courts. The reforms aim to change the way judges are appointed to the judicial committee, remove the consideration of reasonability, and introduce a new override clause, all essentially giving more power to the governing coalition.

Although almost all members of Israeli society can acknowledge a need for judicial reform, but a fierce opposition has emerged at the way that the Netnayahu government is going about achieving this. Most critics of the reform claim that the reforms proposed are the incorrect way to change the judicial system, claiming that the government is pushing this overhaul too quickly. Many are also concerned with the effects that the passing of these reforms could have on the rights of minorities in Israel, specifically women. As it stands, if the proposed overhaul passess, the coalition is more then likely to pass through legislation banning women from wearing immodest clothing at the Kotel by making it a punishable offense as well as criminalizing the acts of feminist organizations at the Western Wall. Additionally, opponents to the reform see these reforms as detrimental to the safety of Israel, with direct impacts on the IDF being seen today. Furthermore, it is also commonly believed that these reforms are a direct result of the Netanyahu corruption trial and an effort of Netanyahu himself to free himself from all charges. Overall, critics of the reform are very skeptical about the possible impacts on Israeli society.

On the other hand, there has also been strong support for these reforms across Israel. Many supporters of the reform believe that the Supreme Court holds too much power, and that these reforms will balance out the power between the branches of government. They feel that the elected governing coalition should be the only people allowed to make decisions about laws in the country. Many believe that Aharon Barak illegally expanded the jurisdiction of the judicial branch, and that this overhaul will fix these issues and return the Supreme Court’s powers to what they were at the beginning of the 1990s. Furthermore, many right wing and conservative Israelis feel that the Judiciary is no longer representative of their beliefs and views and it is pushing forward a liberal agenda. They believe that by enforcing these reforms, the Israeli system will become more reminiscent of that of other western democracies.

Overall, it is evident that both sides of the reforms have valid justifications for their opinions, but really the only way to continue the democratic reign in Israel is for both sides to come to a compromise. Israel’s dynamism makes it difficult to unite vastly diverse sectors of society leading to constantly evolving debates, but this debate offers a critical opportunity for Israelis to come together to reach a compromise in order to build a national identity of democracy.

Ruby Borer is a BBG living in Sydney, Australia who has a dog named Marshmello.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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