Israeli mayors from left and right
warn against 'reforms' of judiciary

By City Mayors

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Former NYC mayor joins Tel Aviv mayor
in condemning attacks on Israel’s judiciary

March 2023: Former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has warned that with its plans to make the Israel’s judiciary answerable to parliament (the Knesset) the country’s new, right-wing government was courting disaster. The former mayor, who is a long-time supporter of and investor in Israel, wrote in an article for the New York Times that he sympathised with those who are already cancelling investments in Israel. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is courting disaster” by trying to claim powers that are above review and is “imperilling Israel’s alliances around the world, its security in the region, its economy at home and the very democracy upon which the country was built,” Bloomberg wrote.

The Israeli government coalition, which includes a number of right-wing religious parties, is legislating for a dramatic judicial restructuring that would increase government control over the judiciary. Critics say that along with other planned legislation, the sweeping reforms will impact Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost all power to the executive branch and leaving individual rights unprotected and minorities undefended.

In addition to the social and economic impact, Michael Bloomberg wrote, there is Israel’s security, which greatly relies on the relationship with the United States, is “built on shared values - freedom, equality, democracy,” and can only be maintained “by a commitment to the rule of law, including an independent judiciary capable of upholding it.”

“If Israel moved to a form of governance that mirrors those of authoritarian countries it risks upsetting its ties with the US and other free nations, resulting in a devastating loss for Israel’s security and damage to the prospects of peace with the Palestinians,” the former NYC mayor warned, adding that such a prospect “could even imperil the future of the Jewish homeland.”

The overhaul, he warned, would also undermine the “deep attachment millions of people around the world feel toward the country,” forged not just from its Jewish character, but its commitment to freedom.

Israel’s thriving LGBT community points out that the far-right Noam party is now part of Netanyahu’s coalition. The party is known for its homophobic, misogynist and anti-pluralism positions. Before the new government was formed, liberal Israeli mayors warned against the participation of Noam after its leader had said he would work to cancel the annual gay pride parade in Jerusalem.

The mayor of the central city of Ramat Gan, Carmel Shama Hacohen, pledged that “For every hour of study of liberalism, inclusion and equality that the government will cut, the city of Ramat Gan will allocate and pay for two hours to those subjects.” Mayors of Herzliya, Petach Tikvah and Mevaseret Ziyon also pledged to finance such programmes from their own budget, if the government stops supporting them.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, one of Israel’s longest-serving and most respected mayors, warned that the country was heading towards dictatorship and bloodshed if the government moves forward with its judicial reform plan. “Something we won’t let happen,” he added. “This is the history of the world. Countries become dictatorships through the use of democratic tools. Countries do not become democratic again, except with bloodshed,” Huldai said.

The proposed changes to Israel’s judiciary have not only divided the whole country but are also opposed by many conservative Israelis. Last month, a group of right-wing mayors added their names to an open letter calling for the government to talk to the opposition and try to reach a compromise. Even some Israeli settlers on the occupied West Bank called for restraint and compromise.

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